Environmental issue: Baby wipes flushed down toilets are costing us millions of pounds

Southern Water Logo SUS-181113-091443001
Southern Water Logo SUS-181113-091443001

Southern Water is urging people not to flush baby wipes down the toilets as they are one of the main causes of blocked drains.

The warning comes as tests reveal that many brands of baby wipes, which claim to be flushable, actually fail the test of how quickly the material breaks down before it can causes problems.

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Many people are still unaware that baby wipes contain plastic and there have been calls from campaigners for manufacturers to make this clearer on the labelling.

A study earlier this year revealed baby wipes are causing hundreds of thousands of blockages in the UK sewer system and costing the country £100m every year.

The study from Water UK, the trade body representing all of the main water and sewerage companies in the country, found that wipes made up about 93% of the material causing the sewer blockages.

Water UK’s director of corporate affairs, Rae Stewart, said the findings proved that sewer blockages that cost £100m a year are “a problem we can all do something about”.

Southern Water, which covers much of the Hastings and Rother area, is running a Keep It Clear campaign to get the message across,

The water company’s advice is to always dispose of baby wipes in a bin and not to flush them away.

A spokesman for Southern Water said: “Our sewers and the drains in your home are only designed to carry the three Ps – pee, poo and paper.

“Every year there are thousands of blockages in these pipes, caused by people flushing the wrong things down the toilet or pouring fat, oil and grease down the sink.

“Your pipes are smaller than you think, about 10cm, so even a small blockage can cause sewage to flood your home or garden

“The cost of repairs and to clean up flooding can also add up to a hefty bill.

“We are running a campaign between now and 2020 to visit homes in ‘blockage hotspots’ with advice on how to keep our sewers and your drains clear.

“Our team will be knocking on the doors of nearly 20,000 homes each year to share information about what and what not to flush down the loo or pour down the sink and drains.

“We’ll also be checking manholes and putting cameras in sewers to check they are working properly, and using high-powered water jets to clear any blockages we find.”

Earlier this year a fatberg weighing the same as 11 double decker buses and stretching the length of two football pitches was found blocking a section of the sewer system in East London, much of it was found to be comprised of baby wipes.

Natalie Fee, from the plastic pollution campaign group City to Sea which has been running a campaign about not flushing wipes and other single-use plastic down the toilet, said: “Most people still don’t know that baby wipes contain plastic, and they would be a lot less likely to flush them if it was listed as an ingredient on the pack.”

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