Flushable wet wipes ‘causing sewer blockages’

sewer blockages'
All wet wipes sold as “flushable” in the UK have so far failed the water industry’s disintegration tests, the BBC has found. Water companies say wet wipes don’t break down and are causing blockages which cost millions to put right. Manufacturers insist their test is adequate and say sewer blockages are caused by people putting non-flushable wipes down the toilet. Wet wipes are sold for everything from make-up removal to surface cleaning. Most importantly when it comes to flush-ability, they’re available as moist toilet tissue. The government has said it is working with manufacturers and water companies to develop a product that does not contain plastic and can be safely flushed. The sticking point comes over what you count as “flushable”. Wet wipes will flush – in that they will disappear down the U-bend of your toilet. The problem is what happens to them next. Wet wipes are behind 93% of blockages in UK sewers, a key element of the infamous giant obstacles known as fatbergs, according to Water UK, the trade body representing all of the main water and sewerage companies in the country. They say it costs £100 million a year to deal with them. Skips full of wipes are caught by the filters at water treatment works and end up in landfill.
From their treatment sites across the North West, United Utilities collect around 12,000 tonnes of wipes and other rubbish every year. Tony Griffiths, from United Utilities, said: “It’s extremely frustrating. The amount of money that gets spent on dealing with blockages and disposing of this material could be reinvested in our ageing infrastructure.” He added: “If we’re not spending all this money, we could actually work to reduce customer bills.” Some in the water industry are losing patience. Matt Wheeldon, a director at Wessex Water, has tried to push for action to prevent wipes being labelled as flushable. He said: “I think they’re a complete scourge on our society. “Whoever came up with the bad idea didn’t think about the impact they’re going to have on the environment.” He added that it was “technically illegal to put anything down the toilet that’s going to block up the sewer”. Meanwhile, wipes which escape the filters have an even greater environmental impact, ending up in rivers and on beaches.

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