Don’t believe the wipe
Plastic pollution and littering from ‘flushable’ wet wipes is on the rise – last year the Marine Conservation Society recorded over 14 wet wipes were found per 100 metres of coastline, a rise of 700% over the last decade. And in April 2018, over 4,500 wet wipes were found on one 154m sq patch of foreshore.
Many wet wipes contain plastic and don’t break down (or if they do they break down into microplastics). Once flushed, they clog up our pipes and sewers forming giant ‘fatbergs’. We hope you’re not eating your supper whilst reading this! Then, because they’re full of wipes, our sewage systems overflow and we get spills into our waterways and seas – meaning lots of other plastics get flushed into our environment.
BBC Radio 4’s Costing The Earth recently looked into the issue and its investigation claims all wet wipes sold as “flushable” in the UK have so far failed the tests.
But I thought you could flush them?
All wet wipes sold as “flushable” in the UK have so far failed the water industry’s disintegration tests, the BBC has found. Research carried out on behalf of water companies showed that the vast majority of the wipes failed to break down in conditions that imitated the UK’s drainage system. There are approximately 300,000 sewer blockages every year due to wet wipes, costing the UK £100million to clear the ‘fatbergs’ they leave behind.
Flushable wipes should contain biodegradable cellulose, however studies have shown many brands are made from synthetic substances like plastic or polyester. The industry is making wipes that are flushable according to its own testing standards but the water industry doesn’t believe those testing standards are rigorous enough and don’t replicate the conditions in a sewer which is ultimately where these wipes are ending up.
The whole issue is a messy one. Hence we’re not running a petition at this stage but are raising awareness about not flushing wipes down the loo. EDANA, the trade body for wipes in Europe, have their own ‘flushability guidelines’, but those don’t meet the our UK water companies guidelines. Changes are happening – supermarkets are phasing out plastic from their ‘flushable’ wipes, EDANA are bringing forth better labelling – and later this year the new UK guidelines will be in place, which will give people like us something to make sure manufacturers and EDANA agree to follow. It’s a work in progress … so for now we’re just spreading awareness of the mess they’re making of our sewers, rivers and seas!
In May 2018, the government announced it was working with manufacturers and water companies to develop a product that does not contain plastic and can be safely flushed. We haven’t heard anything since however.
What can we do about it?
We’ve campaigning to raise awareness of the issue since June this year and the issue has once again hit the UK headlines.
To help keep our seas plastic-free, only flush the 3P’s – paper, poo and pee! EVERYTHING else goes in the bin.
NEVER flush a ‘flushable’ wipe – consider switching to reusable alternatives.
Nobody puts baby wipes down the toilet. Protect the world’s oceans from ‘Dirty Flushing’ with this homage to Dirty Dancing … thirty years and still going strong. Just like a wet wipe made of plastic that will never biodegrade. So throw off your dressing gowns, watch and share!