Can I Flush Toilet Paper in Cartagena?

Can you flush TP

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If you are visiting Cartagena and wondering what to do with toilet paper after using the bathroom, you have come to the right place. 

In general, yes, you can flush toilet paper in Cartagena. Flushing is the better option for disposing of used toilet paper, but in certain places, you may find it backs up the plumbing system. 

There are a few ways of looking at this tissue issue, so I am following the pipeline to learn more about this topic.

Cartagena Confusion

In Cartagena, as in most of Colombia, it is customary to dispose of toilet paper in wastebaskets. 

People are taught from childhood that this is the way it should be, and this knowledge is passed down through generations. 

I researched the topic to determine if this is hearsay or if science backs up this belief. 

I learned that unless the facilities use a septic system, as in the case of a farm or small town, it is only sometimes necessary to throw TP in the garbage. 

Cartagena has some old construction, so in certain bathrooms, it will be best to abstain from flushing toilet paper. 

Yet, the city’s gray water treatment plant is excellent and fully equipped to handle flushing toilet paper down. 

As with anything, if you are unsure, err on the side of caution and place waste in the basket. 

The alternative is dealing with sewage backups and plumbing issues; it is probably not worth the risk. 

Some places may have signs or instructions in the bathroom indicating whether or not it’s safe to flush toilet paper down the toilet. 

Always follow these instructions when available.

While we are on the subject of hygiene and cleanliness, I do get the question, “Can I drink the tap water in Cartagena?” I answer that here.

Toilet Paper Cartagena Colombia

Reasons to avoid the bin

Having used toilet paper in a wastebasket can become a cesspool for disease. 

Bacteria like E.coli and other diseases can spread rapidly when toilet paper is not flushed. 

This is especially true in a hot and humid environment such as Cartagena. 

Even with a lid, germs can spread through the airways, making people sick. This is why it is best to flush toilet paper whenever possible.

Exclusively TP

When discussing flushing anything down the drain besides biological waste, we are talking strictly about toilet paper. 

Other items, such as wipes, tampons, sanitary pads, floss, condoms, cigarettes, medicine, leftover oil, or chemicals, should never be flushed down. 

These can cause backups in plumbing and can be a health hazard. 

Toilet paper is designed to disintegrate when it comes into contact with water. 

As such, it can be deposited in the toilet in moderate quantities because it is biodegradable. Most water treatment facilities are designed to handle it.

But what about Bogota? That’s a different city with different answers.

Water Treatment in Cartagena

The truth is that only cities that have proper residual water treatment plants should flush toilet paper. 

So, how does Cartagena fare in this category? 

Well, I am proud to say that Cartagena pioneered in Colombia a primary treatment for 100% of its residual waters with the help of a submarine emissary. 

This is something to be proud of!

Residual water in Cartagena is gathered from approximately 1200 km of sewage pipes. 

Eventually, they end up in the residual water treatment plant in Punta Canoa, Bolivar, just outside city limits.

Treated water is pumped out to sea through an underground pipeline 4.3km into the local beaches. 

The first 2.5km are buried underground; the remaining 1.75km are sitting on the sea floor. 

Finally, the last 300mts float only 20 meters in depth. This part of the pipeline has small holes throughout to slowly dilute the treated water into the sea.

The town that benefitted from sewage treatment

Punta Canoa is the small town on the outskirts of Cartagena where the water treatment plant is located. Luxury hotels and apartment complexes surround this town to supply tourism in the city. 

Most people are unaware of their proximity to the treatment plant. 

Punta Canoa was gracious enough to allow the local water company to install the treatment pipelines in their town. 

As a thank you, the water company gifted the community with good infrastructure in a town that had none. 

In Punta Canoa, the highway into town, roads, sidewalks, lighting, etc., are top-notch. The residents have seen some benefits in allowing the pipelines to cross through their town on the way to the ocean.

Cartagena Colombia

So what should you do with TP?

In conclusion, you can ask your host or travel concierge what to do with toilet paper. Plus, this is a great opportunity to practice your Spanish while in Cartagena.) Consider these tips when you are deciding which option is best:

  • Avoid flushing toilet paper if you are outside the city limits. Chances are they will be using a septic tank.
  • Within the city, you can flush toilet paper in new buildings as these use pipes designed for flushing the toilets we use today.
  • Do not flush TP within the old city walls or in an older building. Even if the bathrooms have been remodeled, pipelines and infrastructures behind the walls might have been built centuries prior. Avoid potential backups by discarding toilet paper in the waste basket. 
  •  If you are using the waste basket as a disposal, ensure the garbage can has a lid in place. Empty it out daily. You do not want biological matter sitting out in the open for days at a time. 

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer regarding flushing toilet paper in Cartagena. Use your judgment with the information you have learned today, and hope for the best. 

Also, check out more free Colombian Content here:

  1. Ultimate Guide for What To Wear In Cartagena
  2. Can I Use Uber in Cartagena?
  3. Cartagena vs. Medellin: Which is the better travel destination?
  4. 11 Pros & Cons for Expats Living in Colombia

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