Wet wipes confirmed leading cause of sewer blockages and river pollution

Posted by Rachael Funnell on September 18, 2019

A recent study carried out by Thames21 found that in July of this year over 23,000 wet wipes made their way to the shore of the River Thames in Barnes. The wipes were collected during a two-hour volunteer clean up as part of a wider study into the long lasting effects of wet wipes in our sewers. The news comes after it was discovered by Water UK that wet wipes were responsible for 93% of sewer blockages, triggering a call for the enforcement of the Fine To Flush specification.

Wet wipes are created using a non-woven material which is bonded under high pressure using chemicals, and have increased significantly in popularity since the mid-90s. The issue with their use arises when, unlike conventional toilet paper, the wipes are less easily broken down in sewer systems owing to the micro-plastics which bind them together, causing sewer blockages and an accumulation of discarded wipes in rivers, affecting local wildlife.

Following the study by Thames21, the government has agreed to include plastic-containing wet wipes in their bid to eliminate all avoidable single use plastic within 25 years. In the meantime, Thames21 are urging consumers to seek out reusable alternatives where possible and put all wet wipes in bins instead of flushing them away unless they are certified by the Fine To Flush specification.

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