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Educating for Sustainability


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UNIT: Wastewater Context for Matter and Its Interactions

LESSON: Properties and the Problem with "Flushable wipes"

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Part of a series of lessons in a unit called Wastewater Context for Matter and its interactions. Designed for middle school physical science, students will understand the problem the properties of "flushable wipes" cause to the water treatment systems.
LESSON: Properties and the Problem with "Flushable wipes"

Lesson Specs

Suitable for Grades

8th Grade
7th Grade
6th Grade

Satisfies Academic Standards: 

OSPI ESE 3: Sustainability & Civic Responsibility

Sustainable System Focus:

Buildings and Urban Planning

Academic Subjects


Submitted by:

Jeffrey Burgard

Last Updated:

June 12, 2020 at 7:13:34 PM

Content Connection


  1. Properties do not change regardless of amount or shape and are used to describe and differentiate substances.
  2. Characteristic properties are chemical or physical properties unique to substances and are used to identify them



  1. All substances in wastewater have properties that make it possible to identify them.
  2. Properties of substances dictate what should and should not go down the drain

Community Relevance

King county spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year dealing with the problems "flushable wipes" cause in the treatment system. Helping students understand the problem can reduce the number of wipes in the system and will reduce this spending.

Lesson Plan

Teacher Materials

  1. Small amount Toilet paper
  2. 1 or a part of 1Bathroom wipes
  3. 2 clean containers with lids (mason jars work well)
  4. Water
  5. Article - “Everybody wipes, so what is the best method”
  6. Powerpoint Slide: Scientific Principles PowerPoint slide
  7. Powerpoint Slide: Powerpoint slides: The problem with wipes


Student Materials

  1. Scientific Principles and Applications Summary Table

Time needed: 1 class period

  1. When basic lessons about physical and chemical properties are complete,conduct the following demonstration:
    1. Fill two screw top containers with water.(Containers hold 1 cup to 1 quart of liquid and be clear.)
    2. Tell students “many people put wipes and toilet paper down the toilet and flush” - Place the same size sample of toilet paper and bathroom wipe - each in their own container, seal the lid and shake each container vigorously
    3. The toilet paper should break into many pieces and the wipe should stay whole. Tell students, “because the two have different properties, only one of them should actually go down the toilet. Even though most bathroom wipes say they are flushable, they are bad for the sewer system and tangle in the pumps. People have to shut down the system and take them out by hand. show the pictures in the slides The problem with wipes
  2. There is also an article that can be read called “Everybody wipes, so what is the best method” that can be done as “jigsaw” or independent reading.
  3. Give students the Scientific Principles and Applications Summary Table as a record of what they are learning and how it applies to the wastewater problem.
  4. Share with them the PowerPoint slides Scientific Principles that show the Scientific Principles and the application to wastewater - have them copy onto their sheet.
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