Flushed away…the flushable wipes conspiracyCat McCarthy
No-one would really argue that we now live in a throwaway society, where convenience items rule our purchase list. Think disposable nappies rather than terry towelling cloths, coffee pods over instant coffee, or yoghurt pouches instead of needing a bowl and a spoon.
Consumers do however have a conscience; we are beginning to want ‘greener’ options for our convenience products to make us feel better about our high, and often wasteful, consumption habits. ‘Biodegradable’, ‘Eco-friendly’ or ‘Compostable’ are words which tend to grab our attention, and are often the preferable option when purchasing disposable items. One such group of items that have been introduced to this market is all things ‘flushable’.
When we spend our hard earned money, we want to know that it does what it says on the tin. But there is one problem with the flushable wipe that really blows me away… they aren’t really flushable. Well yes, in fact they ARE flushable, but in the same way that everything that fits through the orifice of your toilet bowl is… a wedding ring, a plastic bag, a toothbrush, anything my toddler puts in there, is FLUSHABLE. But just because something can be flushed, doesn’t mean it should be.
The leading manufacturers of flushable wipes (I’m looking at you Kleenex and Sorbent) are deceiving us all when they use this term. They know a lot of people are on to it as well; Kleenex state on their website “Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths are designed to deliver a cleaner, shower fresh feeling. Able to be flushed in the toilet, they are easy to use and suitable for the whole family’s hygiene. Flush a maximum of two wipes at a time”. So while they say you can flush them, they don’t actually promise its eco-friendly, or even the right thing to do.
What’s the big deal with flushing wipes anyway you may ask? What problem could they possibly cause? Big problems. Big UGLY problems. Wetwipes are the leading cause of a new epidemic facing pipes all over the world, and they have been termed the ‘Fatberg’. Fatberg’s are essentially a conglomeration of fats and wipes in a drainage system. They are costing millions and millions of dollars worth of blockages in our pipes. These blockages can become so severe they can potentially cause raw sewage to start flooding our streets, or worse, our homes. If your drains become clogged, it will cost you about $180 per hour for the hire of a sewer cleaning machine and friendly plumber to unblock your drain in 1-3 hours usually.
One of our plumbers (who is professionally qualified in coming up with absolutely correct statistics…) hypothesised that 99% of the time, if you have a blocked drain and your home is under 20 years old, the problem will be caused by the flushing of items that should never have been flushed (think tampons, wetwipes and cooking oils). If these blocking agents do make it out of your home drainage system, they will end up in your council sewage plant. They need to be filtered out and then taken to a landfill site. Not as flushable and convenient as they first seemed right?
In 2015, Kleenex won a Choice Shonky award for their flushable wipes, in order to get the company to clean up their act so to speak. Choice online have also started a ‘Flushbusters’ campaign in order to try and get this product taken off supermarket shelves. They carried out an experiment to show exactly how the flushable wipes do not break down in your water pipes, which can be seen here.
The financial costs of the flushable wipe affects ALL of us, whether we use them or not. Notice how expensive our water bill service and drainage charges are getting? There’s also the environmental cost factors which are concerning. Choice state that wet wipes increase the risk of pipe blockages and overflows to local creeks and rivers. If and when they make it to the sewage plant, they then need to be collected and taken to landfill. Toilet paper on the other hand, disintegrates.
So what you can do to help stop fatbergs in our pipes?
– Stop buying flushable wipes. Or flushable toilet seat covers. Or flushable nappy liners.
– ONLY flush human waste products and toilet paper down the toilet.
– Do not put any fats, oils or food scraps down your kitchen sink. It will end up costing you!
– Consider making your own actual flushable wetwipes by using my recipe here
For more information on flushable wipes, blocked drains or anything else plumbing related please contact us.