The problem with wet wipes
- Wet wipes don't disintegrate when flushed – even the ones labelled as 'flushable'.
- Wipes can cause blockages in your household plumbing, potentially costing you up to $1000 in plumbing bills.
- When they meet up with another nasty that’s commonly washed down the sink – cooking fat – they create the perfect combination for a blockage in the sewerage network.
- They jam pumps and get caught in equipment at our sewage treatment plants (pictured right).
- They add to the overall cost of sewage treatment because they must be screened out, dumped in bins and trucked off to landfill – which is where they should go in the first place.
Every year, we:
- remove 160 tonnes of wet wipes from our sewerage network
- spend $400,000 disposing of this rubbish from our sewage treatment plants
- clear 4000 blockages in the sewerage network
- spend $1.5 million responding to sewer breaks and blockages.
Other bathroom baddies
Many bathroom products also cause blockages in the sewer and at our treatment plants because they don’t break down.
- Hair balls from hairbrushes clump with all the other nasties in the sewer and can cause blockages.
- Cotton buds are made of plastic and end up looking like lollipop sticks in our sewer system. They can sneak through the tiny holes in our filters and hold up the treatment process.
- Cotton wool balls stay like wet clumps and can add to blockages.
- Facial tissue is designed to stay together when wet and absorb moisture, so takes longer to break down in the sewer system.
- Dental floss might look innocent but it gets tangled in our equipment.
- Tampons and sanitary pads are a big contributor to blockages in our network. They’re designed to absorb liquid and don’t break down in our pipes.
What is Queensland Urban Utilities doing about it?
We’re working with our peak national body, the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), to solve this international problem. We’re one of many water utilities from across Australia and the world who’ve signed up to an industry position on ‘flushable’ products. This calls for all wipes to be clearly marked as ‘Do Not Flush’ until there is an agreed standard. In the meantime, we will continue to educate people about what should and shouldn’t be flushed.
What you can do
- Only flush the three P's – pee, poo and paper.
- Use a bin in your bathroom for everything else.
- Don't fall victim to misleading labels on wet wipe packaging – even though they may say they're 'flushable', they don't break down in the sewer like toilet paper.