Living by the sea, we are at the sharp end of the wet wipe debacle. It seems that the wet wipe industry has proclaimed some wet wipes are flushable, but it seems they really are not. Many clog up the sewerage system and those that somehoe get through end up in the sea.
The water industry has been developing a new standard which tests whether a product is suitable to be flushable down your toilet by ensuring it doesn’t cause blockages in the sewers or contribute to the microplastic problem. The findings show that, despite many wipes on supermarket shelves being commonly labelled and sold as flushable, their claims of flushability are misleading the public. Just because it disappears down the loo does not make it flushable.
Wipes cause blockages. Surprisingly the so-called “fat bergs” that become lodged in UK sewers are only made up of 0.5% fats, but comprise of an astonishing 93% wet wipes. £90 million is spent by the water industry each year on clearing blocked drains alone, ultimately adding costs to customers’ water bills, according to Water UK. While the majority of these are baby wipes, which were never designed to be flushed, the growing market of so-called ‘flushable’ wipes means that we need be tackling these products, and ensuring they are fit for purpose.
MCS has campaigned for several years to see action on the labelling of wet wipes, as sewage contamination of waterways and beaches often results from blocked pipes, many of which are caused unnecessarily by items such as wet wipes being flushed. In 2017, MCS collected over 10,000 signatures a petition to the wet wipe industry body EDANA asking them to ensure members removed plastic from their flushable products and that flushable wipes complied with UK Water Industry standards.
Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at MCS, said “We want to see clear labelling on wet wipes, and will be asking for retailers who sell products claiming flushability to ensure that their products will pass these flushability tests devised by WRc. These tests mimic the conditions found in UK sewers and ensures that the product does not contain plastic, which unfortunately is still the case for some flushable wipes. We urge the water industry to publish the standard as soon as possible, as many retailers have already indicated they wish to change to products which meet the new guidelines.”
“The public purchase these products thinking that they will not cause any issues down the sewers and are shocked to find out they may contain plastic and not break up sufficiently in the sewers. In fact, 83% of the British public, questioned in a YouGov poll for MCS, support the removal of the claim of ‘flushable’ from all wet wipes if they do not meet water industry standards for what can be safely flushed down the toilet without causing blockages. That’s more than 4 out of 5 people, with most support coming from those aged over 55 years”.
Data from the 2017 MCS Great British Beach Clean revealed a startling 94% rise in the number of wet wipes found on UK beaches.
Read more about how, when you flush them, wet wipes turn nasty at: www.wetwipesturnnasty.com