I’m still reeling from this advert, but I do find it kinda interesting that wet wipes vendors go to such lengths to claim their products are flushable that water companies are forced to market a frankly terrifying rap video that makes use of the charming triad ‘pee, poo and paper’ in an attempt to directly refute this claim.
It makes sense that the likes of Andrex are keen to label their wet wipes as flushable – who cares of they block sewers and cost the consumer millions of pounds every year in maintenance and repair? – when every single water company, environmental company and academic says the exact opposite. After all, who’s going to keep buying them if they’re not?
For their part the water companies have been lobbying for labelling that says DO NOT FLUSH on the front of these packages, so serious has the problem become. Here’s what they have to say on whether wet wipes are flushable.
Rob Smith, Thames Water’s chief sewer flusher, said: “Sewers are designed to take only loo roll, dirty water and human waste. Nothing else. But sadly we are seeing more and more fat and wet wipes – which should never be flushed even if the packaging says ‘flushable’ – ending up in our sewers. That’s a big headache for us, but it can also lead to sewage backing up into our customers’ homes and gardens, which is utterly hideous.
Water UK director of environment Sarah Mukherjee said: “There are strong views from customers and water companies that manufacturers need to take action to stop calling wet wipes ‘flushable’ and help prevent sewer flooding.
“The financial and emotional cost of a sewer flood in your home is awful and surely it is worth taking every step possible to prevent this happening.”
The Consumer Council for Water’s Steve Grebby said: “Our research shows many households are still confused but we have a really simple message for consumers – only flush the 3Ps down your loo – pee, poo and paper. That way we can all reduce the risk of sewer flooding and the untold misery it causes thousands of households and businesses every year.”
Scottish Water chief operating officer Peter Farrer said: “On average, Scottish Water responds to 80 blockages each day which are a direct result of inappropriate items like wet wipes being flushed down toilets.
“This can lead to flooding of homes, gardens and businesses, as well as pollution of beaches or rivers. And it’s also costly for a business which aims to keep customer charges as low as possible – we spend around £6 million a year tackling this problem.
“Our Keep the Cycle Moving campaign, meanwhile, highlights simple steps people can take to help play their part – such as binning all wipes instead of flushing them.
Matt Wheeldon, Wessex Water: “Some manufacturers claim their products meet ‘flushability protocols’, yet the reality is that they have made up these protocols themselves – not the sewerage companies who have the horrible job of unblocking the sewers.”
“The unequivocal evidence is that wet wipes simply don’t break down quickly enough, despite claims that they do. Spend just a few hours with our sewerage crews, who work every day helping distressed customers who have blockages in their homes, and you will see for yourself the problems they cause.”
FWIW someone might want to tell Andrex:
“Watch MC Plumber and his and his assistants Dwayne Pipe and Ella Vamess who’ll let you know why ‘You Can’t Flush This’”