Your TV, mattress and kitchen cutlery do not belong in sewers

11 Jul 2023 in Where We Govern

Tyres, rags, clothes, buckets full of teaspoons and forks, and even a TV and car parts are some of the weird and not-so-wonderful things removed by the City’s Water and Sanitation Directorate to clear Cape Town’s blocked sewer pipes. Read more below:

Over the past financial year (ie July 2022 to June 2023) the City has spent about R417 million to help reduce and tackle blockages in Cape Town’s sewer system. This includes both proactive measures, such as the City’s Winter Preparedness programme to jet-clean the sewer pipelines, and reactive cleaning costs, to clear sewer blockages as a result of illegal dumping and misuse of the sewer system.

Recently spoons and forks were removed from a sewer in Mfuleni. Also, on Wednesday, 21 June 2023, a mattress was pulled out of the sewer in Lavender Hill using specialised cleaning equipment. About four hours of effort through machine and manpower was required to manoeuvre and then extract the mattress from the sewer manhole.

What to know about dumping waste into sewer drains, flushing toilets and pouring things down kitchen sinks:

  • Illegal dumping into sewer infrastructure is a city-wide problem, and all of us – residents and the City – need to work together to help keep our sewers clear from blockages.


  • The City’s Water and Sanitation teams clear and clean over 300 sewer blockages and overflows a day as a result of this problem.


  • About 85% of these cases are the result of the misuse of the sewer system where items such as rags, feminine hygiene products, builders’ rubble, litter, fats and oils, and most recently, a mattress and cutlery, are illegally dumped into manholes or enter the system via sinks or by being flushed down toilets. The City has even removed a TV and car parts from our sewer lines. These waste items should not be in the sewer network, so when they are, they cause sewers to overflow into our streets.


  • The City’s proactive efforts to help clear sewer blockages includes jetting the sewer pipes. Increased investment in pipe replacement is another effort the City has taken to reduce blockages. The City also runs education and awareness campaigns about illegal dumping into the sewer system, including our Bin it, Don’t Block It Campaign. (Leaflets are available in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa.)


‘We all need to be mindful of what we do with our waste. Our toilets, sewer pipes and drains should not be treated like dirt bins or wishing wells. Waste that gets into the sewer pipe will block it and put strain on and damage the infrastructure related to the conveyance and treatment of sewage across the city such as pump stations which are very costly to repair.


‘While the City is actioning proactive measures to help reduce overflows, we also appeal to residents and community leaders to use the available resources on the City’s website to join in efforts to raise awareness about this issue and what all of us can to do prevent sewer blockages. The reality is the City cannot practically police what residents flush down the toilet or wash down their sinks, or put into drains, so it is up to communities to take responsibility. Let us work together to prevent sewer blockages,’ said Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation, Councillor Zahid Badroodien.


What residents can do to help reduce sewer overflows and the sanitation service:

  • Don’t flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper. Anything else will block the pipes. For more tips, see
  • Use the City’s solid waste services provided to get rid of your waste, not drains.
  • Report sewer blockages and overflows using one of the City’s official channels mentioned below so they can be cleared in a reasonable timeframe. 
  • Report vandalism to the sewage reticulation system and stolen or missing sewer manhole covers.
  • Use the City’s drop-off facilities to get rid of any solid waste. See the City’s drop-offs for recyclables:


Please report water and sanitation-related service requests, such as a sewer overflow, to one of the following channels:


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