As a consumer in Australia, it’s probable that you’re aware of the emergence of wet wipes on supermarket shelves over the past few years. A multi-purpose product, their use as an alternative to toilet paper has become a regularity in Australian households.
With product labels from trusted brands indicating that these wipes are flushable, we can be forgiven for not believing otherwise.
As a matter of fact, however, these wipes are not only blocking our household plumbing systems, but are contributing to something far more problematic.
Despite the claims of these companies, the wipes are causing issues further down the piping network, with clearance of blockages costing authorities millions.
Around 3,500 blockages occur in the Sydney city system each year, with wet wipes being a main contributor; it’s estimated that they cause up to 75% of all sewer network blockages.
Clearing out system blockages is a physically demanding task, faced by workers on a daily basis.
Stories concerning the rise of ‘Fatbergs’ are common in the news nowadays, and are the scourge of sewer system workers in major cities worldwide. Fatbergs are a solid mass found in sewer systems, usually caused by a mixture of grease, fats, and other non-biodegradable matter, most commonly in the form of wet wipes.
Increased instances of these masses in sewer networks have correlated with the popularity of disposable cloths. In 2017, a fatberg as heavy as ‘11 double decker buses’ was removed from a London sewer tunnel. In Brisbane, a fatberg had to be removed from a sewer via a crane, it was so big.