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Mar 1st 2019 Back to latest news

Are Wet Wipes Disposable and Flushable?

When is it OK to flush wet wipes down the toilet? Answer: Never! And they are fast becoming an environmental worry . . .

Are Wet Wipes Disposable and Flushable? No.

Wet Wipes are becoming an environmental worry. Every parent knows that baby wipes are the changing bag essential you cannot live without, right? We all know one of the main benefits of wipes are that they are so convenient and so much better than dry tissues!  From cleaning baby’s delicate skin to cleaning up those messy moments, but they are not all the same. Have you ever asked yourself how many you get through in a day or what is in them?

Part of our conversation today is that, even though we all know wet wipes should Never Go Down A Toilet, they seem to magically end up there. Simply remembering the 3 P’s; Pee, Poo & Paper is all that we need flushed away! Here at Farmer Palmer’s our location is rural, and by our very nature we are not on mains drainage. We have a huge septic tank we fondly name “Marge the Barge”. She works incredibly well until customers decide to feed her with discarded wipes and sanitary items down the toilets.

Statistics to show a growing problem

Conversations are being had in the media, and they could be next on the ban for some plastics such as microbeads and single use plastic bags. Wet wipes have a detrimental effect on our sewers and waterways and the move is being backed by conservationists, water authorities, DEFRA and the Government (see their  25-year Environment Plan  ) who all support eliminating all avoidable plastic waste.

The wet wipes industry is now worth over £500 million in the UK alone. They often contain plastic, meaning they do not disintegrate like toilet paper. Used to remove make-up, replace toilet paper and apply fake tan, wet wipes that are flushed away rather than binned can cause serious problems for our sewers. Imagine the wipes and congealed cooking fat, together, blocking the drains around your home.

In a recent Thames litter pick (Feb 2019) 77% of it was wet wipes. That was 4,000 used wipes in just 400 meters of the river bank.

In 2014 the Marine Conservation Society said there were approx. 36 wipes per kilometer of beach in Britain – a 50% increase from 2013. Southern Water’s waste water treatment works in Kent removed over 2,00 tons of wet wipes.

In 2016 the MCS National beach survey revealed nearly 4,000 wet wipes were collected by volunteers during the Great British Beach Clean – a 30% rise on the previous year and a 400% rise in a decade.

Sewage systems aren’t designed to cope with wet wipe waste, even if the package says ‘biodegradable’ or ‘flushable’, so they can cause blockages, get tangled in machinery and when they are released into the sea they can wash up on beaches.

The recent massive blockage under Sidmouth shows the damage that flushing an innocent-looking wipe down the toilet can do.

Confusing packaging on wet wipes

Baby wipes come in Biodegradable, Compostable, Eco, Flushable, all of which are NOT recyclable and NOT OK to flush even if the label says they are. The Rubbish Bin should become the home of a used wet wipe. 30 or 40 years ago people used flannels, but our modern convenience age means we are not so comfortable using flannels!

Even when put into the bin, wet wipes still pose an environmental problem as they cannot be recycled or composted and, as such, sit in landfill sites for a very long time without biodegrading. Experts warn that a single wet wipe could take 100 years to biodegrade as they contain polyesters which are virtually indestructible.

Imagine what would happen if you gave in to temptation and flushed items down our toilet that ultimately led to blocked drains, Marge the Barge not working and a Farm Park that was closed for a day or two to sort it out. All because of a carelessly discarded flush! All we are asking is that you, our clients, engage with our simple request Don’t flush anything that is not one of the 3 P’s.

So, what have we done to help?

We have provided sanitary bins and baby changing bins in our toilets and baby changing areas. These are regularly serviced by PHS. We provide bins around the Farm Park so that you can dispose of wipes safely. We really appreciate the amazing clients that enjoy their day out and really look after our facilities. Sadly, on the rare occasion, others think it is acceptable to leave a nappy or wipes in our carpark for our hard-working team to clear up, rather than bag it, bin it or take it home. Understandably, when visitors are used to doing this at home, they may forget the countryside is not a toilet.

Try this little test

If you take a plastic bottle (ironic that we are saying plastic, glass will work too) and fill it with water. Add toilet paper and shake. Watch how the paper breaks down and disintegrates.

Now try it with your favorite flushable/biodegradable/eco-friendly wipe. Shake hard and leave it standing for approx. an hour and shake again – the results are startling.

How You Can Help Keep Britain Tidy

Sign up for the Great British Spring Clean. The Keep Britain Tidy campaign on 22nd March to 23rd April 2019

We loved the research done by Which to see what is in some of the most popular wipes.

The DEFRA Approach:

“Through our 25 Year Environment Plan we have a clear commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. There are several ways we can reach this ambition, including banning plastic items – as we have done with our micro beads ban – but also by working with industry to find suitable alternatives or encouraging behavior change.

Our focus for wet wipes is to work with manufacturers and water companies to develop a product that does not contain plastic and can be safely flushed. We are also continuing to work with industry to make sure labelling on the packaging of these products is clear and people know how to dispose of them properly.

The UK is proud to be a world leader in the drive to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans. To prevent wet wipes entering our waterways and damaging our marine environment, we are working with the water and manufacturing industries to better understand which types of wet wipes are involved in sewer blockages and improve labelling of wet wipes so the public understand what and what cannot be flushed. to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. There are several ways we can reach this ambition, including banning plastic items – as we have done with our microbeads ban – but also by working with industry to find suitable alternatives or encouraging behavior change.”