Calls For ‘Do Not Flush’ Labeling On Wet Wipes

Problems Caused To Environment And Drainage Systems By Bad Flushing

Do you know your three Ps: pee, poo and paper? These are the only things that you should be flushing down the toilet. Wet wipes and other items are strictly forbidden.

Water companies in the UK are fighting for the wording to be changed on the labelling of various brands of wet wipes. Some manufacturers are legally allowed to display the words ‘flushable’ on their products, which is misleading to consumers and gives them the go-ahead to dispose of such wipes down the toilet without thought of the consequences to either their own drainage systems or the environment.

However, the incorrect disposal of such wipes can have extremely negative consequences. They do not dissolve in the same way that traditional toilet paper does, as they typically contain materials that are not built to disintegrate. Some of these materials are plastics which when released into the water system can have a significant effect on the environment and on the human population.

Tony Harrington who is the Chair of the 21st Century Drainage Programme Board has approached the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) requesting that a full investigation be conducted and that all products marked ‘flushable’ must be changed to ‘Do Not Flush’ which he believes to be the “only acceptable and environmentally responsible way forward, while available products fail to meet water industry standards for flushability.”

The Damage Caused By Wet Wipes

Wet wipes are amongst a number of items that should not be flushed down the toilet. In fact, it really is only appropriate to flush human waste and toilet paper down the bowl. When you do flush a wet wipe, they have the potential to cause major blockages which then act as a barrier, creating ‘fatbergs’ which are enormous lumps of congealed fat that clog up the sewers.

The True Cost Of Incorrect Wet Wipe Disposal

Water companies are forced to use customers money to spend on drain unblocking and major sewer maintenance when non-disposable items are being flushed. In the UK, an estimated £88 million is wasted by dealing with around 360,000 blockages in the sewer network each year. Around half of these are thought to be completely avoidable and have been caused by the incorrect flushing of various hygiene products down the toilet. However, this problem is not confined just to the UK. New York has had to shell out around $18 million in wipe-related equipment problems over the past five years.

Wipes Are Not The Only Cause Of Concern

It is worth remembering that wet wipes might be getting a bad rep, but they’re by no means the only item that is typically flushed down the toilet that shouldn’t be. Other products that spell a disaster for both the environment and our drainage systems include:

  • Cotton-wool does not break down in the drains, instead they clog together around the bends and cause blockages.
  • Dental floss – this may seem a small and insignificant material to dispose of, but the floss does not disintegrate and can get caught in other items and wraps itself around drains
  • Prescription medication – disposing of drugs down the toilet can cause all manner of problems to the bacteria found in the sewage ecosystem. It can also kill off wildlife along the route.
  • Cigarette Butts – as they are filled with toxins, by flushing a cigarette butt down the loo, you are adding these harmful chemicals to the water supply.

So, the next time you’re about to flush something down the loo, have a think first. If it’s not one of the three Ps: pee, poo or paper, then find another way to dispose of it!



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