Catchy Jingle Aims to Raise Awareness Around the Fatbergs Clogging South Australia's Sewers

Vladimir Zapletin/iStock via Getty Images
Vladimir Zapletin/iStock via Getty Images

Many major cities around the world share a common issue: Residents are flushing waste products like cooking oil and wet wipes down their drains, and when these materials meet up in the sewer system, they create a problem that's often too big to ignore. Fatbergs are slimy lumps of congealed grease and garbage that can weigh up to 143 tons. Cities are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get rid of the nuisances, and in South Australia (SA), a water company has launched a new campaign that aims to prevent them from forming in the first place.

As the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports, SA Water has released a 17-second jingle about what and what not to flush down the toilet. Everything falls into the "don't flush" category except for the "three P's": paper, pee, and poo. You can listen to the full song below.

When people dispose of non-biodegradable items in the toilet, they don't disappear for good. Instead, things like condoms, so-called "flushable" wipes, and sanitary napkins act as magnets for other waste products and eventually grow large enough to create expensive clogs. In Queensland alone, more than 4000 blockages are removed from sewers each year. Annually, dealing with fatbergs costs South Australia as much as $400,000.

South Australia isn't the only region tackling a fatberg problem. Earlier this year, New York City launched its own public awareness campaign about what is and is not flushable. It featured cartoons instead of a jingle, and highlighted four P's (paper, pee, poo, and puke) instead of three.

[h/t ABC]

The World's First Human Composting Facility Is Coming to Seattle

Simotion/iStock via Getty Images
Simotion/iStock via Getty Images

The state of Washington will soon be home to the world’s first human composting facility, reports IFL Science.

The facility is a project of Recompose, a Seattle-based company founded by architect Katrina Spade. When it opens in 2021, Recompose will offer $5500 services that turn a human body into one cubic yard of soil over the course of 30 days. Families of the deceased can take as much soil as they like—any remainder goes to sustaining conservation land in the Puget Sound region.

Recompose is one of several organizations working to provide more eco-friendly after-death options. Critics charge that more conventional choices, like embalming and cremation, have their share of issues. The formaldehyde used in embalming is carcinogenic, and Spade estimates that the combined formaldehyde found in all U.S. cemeteries could fill eight Olympic-size swimming pools. Plus, traditional burials take up land that’s quickly becoming scarce in urban areas. Cremation isn’t much better, environmentally speaking—a single cremation requires about the same amount of energy that an individual would use over a month, and it produces harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

“For every person that chooses to be recomposed instead of cremated or buried, it will save just over a metric ton of carbon, which is pretty significant,” Spade told CityLab in January.

Recompose was made possible by a first-in-the-nation Washington state bill, signed in May, legalizing the practice of the “natural organic reduction” of human remains. Now all that’s left is for Recompose to become a legally licensed funeral home (required before it can start taking people’s payments).

“I think in general, death is a really personal thing,” Spade told CityLab. “And people experience death of a loved one in so many ways. So our goal with recomposition is just to add more choice when it comes to death of a loved one, so that it’s still really personal.”

[h/t IFL Science]

Why Thousands of 'Penis Fish' Washed Up on a California Beach

Kate Montana, iNaturalist // CC BY-NC 4.0
Kate Montana, iNaturalist // CC BY-NC 4.0

Nature works in mysterious ways. The latest example materialized at Drakes Beach near San Francisco, California, in early December, when visitors strolling along the shore stumbled upon what looked to be the discarded inventory of an adult novelty shop. In fact, it was thousands of Urechis caupo, a marine worm that bears more than a passing resemblance to a human penis.

The engorged pink invertebrate, which is typically 10 inches in length, is native to the Pacific coast and frequently goes by the less salacious name of “fat innkeeper worm.” Burrowing in sand, the worm produces mucus from its front end to ensnare plankton and other snacks, then pumps water to create a vacuum where the food is directed into their tunnel. Since it builds up a small nest of discarded food, other creatures like crabs will stop by to feed, hence the “innkeeper” label.

You can see the worm in "action" here:

Because the worms enjoy a reclusive life in their burrows, it’s unusual to see thousands stranded on the beach. It’s likely that a strong storm broke up the intertidal sand, decimating their homes and leaving them exposed. The event is likely to thrill otters, as they enjoy dining on the worm. So do humans: Penis fish are served both raw and cooked in Korea and China.

[h/t Live Science]