In an Australian and international first, a draft standard has been released defining what products shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet, with the move welcomed by SA Water as a step towards stopping wet wipes from clogging up the sewers and causing unnecessary costs, inconvenience and environmental impacts.
Many wet wipe products are labelled as ‘flushable’, despite the fact that – unlike toilet paper which breaks down in around 20 seconds – they don’t disintegrate in the sewer system in an acceptable time.
SA Water’s Senior Manager of Media, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Joshua Zugajev said when items like wet wipes, sanitary pads and tampons are flushed down the toilet, they can build up in sewer pipes, leading to an overflow in your street, yard or even inside your house.
“We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year removing predominantly wet wipes from sewer mains and wastewater treatment plants around South Australia,” Joshua said.
“They can also cause issues for your internal plumbing, with what goes down the toilet eventually coming back up, resulting in a messy and costly – but avoidable – inconvenience.
“We believe the draft standard released this week by Standards Australia will go some way in resolving this issue, as it provides clear specifications and testing methods for manufacturers to determine if products are suitable for flushing, and perhaps more importantly, labelling requirements.
“This will provide consumers with better flushing guidance, but we still remind everyone to only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and (toilet) paper.”
SA Water isn’t alone in the wet wipe battle, with the Water Services Association of Australia Executive Director Adam Lovell saying the urban water industry in Australia and New Zealand have been concerned about the contribution of wet wipes products to pipe blockages for some time.
“We know wipes and other items that shouldn’t be flushed are an issue for water utilities around the globe, disrupting customer services, creating extra costs for water utilities and customers, and impacting the environment through overflows,” Adam said.
“The issue became even more serious during the COVID-19 pandemic, with our members reporting increases in blockages of between 20 and 60 per cent at the height of the pandemic last year, with people flushing materials never intended to go down the toilet like paper towel and wet wipes.”
People can provide feedback to the draft standard DR AS/NZS 5328, Flushable Products through the Standards Australia website.
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