On different trips I have noticed a sign in toilets asking not to flush toilet paper, but throw it in a bin next to the toilet. This was either on island destinations or in areas with rocky grounds.

Personally I don't like this concept of toilet use, but understanding the rationale I respect the request and act accordingly. On various occasions, especially in public places, I was confronted with a full bin and not feeling the urge to create room by compressing a bit I usually look for another toilet.

Now my question, what if you notice the full bin too late? How would a local react? Should I just flush it and report the full bin?


2 Answers 2


It ain't rocket science! But here's a few things I thought were pretty obvious, if you really can't think of them otherwise:

  • Do not flush the entire bin full of paper. The sign is there to prevent bad things from happening.

  • If the bin is already pretty full, just leave your paper on top of the pile and let the staff know it needs emptying. This is of course worse if the bin has no cover.

  • Avoid using excessive amounts of paper. Don't "pave" the entire seat and then wipe with massive wads of paper. These systems can usually handle a very small amount of paper so be as sparing as possible, possibly flushing once per sheet or two.

The most common reason(s) for this is poor plumbing, poor water pressure, poor septic tanks, and/or poor infrastructure that can handle "natural products" but cannot handle toilet paper. Occasionally there will be an explanation as well as a "don't".

Besides some rural areas and islands, this is very common in developing countries and surprisingly also in South Korea, an otherwise very advanced country. I recall being in one country (possibly South Korea?), that had special toilet paper designed to break down in the system that could not handle normal toilet paper. The signs there said only to use this special paper.


This is very easy - paper in the trash bin is not stuffed tightly so you can make a lot of room by compressing it with your foot. If you're afraid of staining your shoe - first throw a piece of clean paper on top first and then compress the pile with your foot. That's all - just compress the paper and proceed with normal toilet usage. Reporting it is at your convenience.

Note that if you try to flush the paper in toilets that are not suitable for that there's good chance that it just won't flush - everything else flushes but the paper will continue floating - and so you'll find yourself guessing how to get the paper from the toilet bowl and not look like an a-hole.

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    No. You have no idea what kind of surprises are wrapped up in there. Unless it's in your hotel room and it was empty when you checked in. If it's in a shared or public bathroom in say a restaurant or hostel there could be several other users with diarrhea for all you know. Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 16:43
  • Countries with plumbing that can't handle toilet paper are usually also countries where people clean up with water. The paper is only used for drying off. Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 1:32
  • @hippietrail: That shouldn't be a major problem unless they used the trash bin instead of the toilet bowl for the entire business process.
    – sharptooth
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 6:37
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    Assuming makes an ass out of you and me - and quite a mess of your shoe and the floor. If only I had had the bad taste to photograph some of these things d-: Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 6:54
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    @jpatokal well, no. I've seen that in hostels in Germany, so what I've heard is also a norm in Greece. Many old buildings have poor sanitation. Quite interesting, in Poland usually old buildings have superior sanitation to that new ones - you could probably flush a living chicken in it Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 8:31

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