There has been a rise in the use of wet wipes in recent years. What started as a product to be used when changing babies’ nappies is now reportedly being employed by adults for numerous tasks, such as cleaning their hands or wiping themselves after they have gone to the toilet.
The problem is that, unlike babies wet wipes, which most parents put in the bin along with the dirty nappy, a lot of the wipes that are used by adults are being flushed down the loo.
This is causing big headaches for homeowners and authorities alike.
Wet wipes, even those that are advertised as being flushable, don’t biodegrade quick enough for household pipes. They get stuck in the system, other items get caught to them and before you know it you have a blockage.
This can cause a considerable problem on a domestic level but on a municipal level they are wreaking havoc in sewerage systems. Wet wipes were a major cause in holding together a so-called 15-tonne ‘fat-berg’ that blocked London’s sewers two years ago. Other leading cities such as New York are also struggling with the issue.
What’s more, because wet wipes do not disintegrate in the sewer system, the Marine Conservation Society has reported a 50% rise in the number of used wet wipes that are being washed up on UK beaches.
Part of the problem is that consumers are confused over which wet wipes are flushable and which ones aren’t. The European Disposables and Nonwovens Association has published a voluntary code of conduct to encourage companies that make non-flushable wipes to feature a logo on their packaging.
Opinion is divided on whether voluntary action or regulation is the most effective way of dealing with this issue. But one thing is certain, consumers need to become better educated over the problems of flushing wet wipes down the loo.