In spite of growing concern about the impact of litter and sewage spilling into our waterways, a lack of public awareness about wet wipes remains an urgent issue; but what can we do about it? New Angling Trust Head of Campaigns, Stuart Singleton White, reports on a smart new labeling scheme to stop this problem being quite literally flushed down the drain!
“Whether it’s cleaning grease off your hands after you’ve serviced a reel or wiping a baby’s bum, wet wipes provide an easy and convenient answer for many of us. Grab it, clean it, then flush it down the toilet; job done! That, at least, is how many people think about wet wipes, if they think about them at all. But as each wipe is flushed away, the true story is often far from over.
A total wipeout? The shocking statistics behind wet wipes and our water system
The UK’s largest water company, Thames Water, clears over 75,000 blocked sewers every year, at a whopping £18million. Some 87 per cent of these blockages are “fatbergs” caused by wet wipes and other products flushed into our drains. Nationally, water companies deal with over 300,000 blockages every year, costing over £100million.
Nor does the problem end with the poor souls who have to unblock pipes. Every blockage is a potential pollution issue. If the sewers overflow, waste can enter our watercourses and rivers, threatening fish, invertebrates and the freshwater ecosystems on which they depend.
This is exactly why the Angling Trust welcomes the announcement by Water UK of its “Fine to Flush” label and the accompanying standard (Water Industry Specification (WIS) 4-02-06). Wet wipe manufactures are now encouraged to adopt this, allowing them to carry the “Fine to Flush” logo on their products.
Seeing the logo on a pack of wet wipes will give the consumer important information and reassure them they can safely flush the wet wipe away. Even more importantly, this should help spread a clear message for products that don’t carry the logo: don’t stick it down the loo! While the problem won’t disappear overnight, then, better signposting could mean healthier rivers and lower bills for consumers across the UK.
Cleaning up the mess; not flushing the problem down the drain!
The “Fine to Flush” logo will indicate that the wet wipe doesn’t contain plastics; in other words, it will break down in the sewage system and not contribute to blockages and the potential risk of river pollution. After all, plastic micro-fibers, such as those found in wet wipes, are a major source of pollution in our rivers and seas. Ingested by much of our aquatic and marine wildlife, from marine mammals right down to tiny invertebrates in rivers, they are doing untold damage worldwide.
If this standard is widely adopted by the industry and consumers gain a better understanding of which wet wipes to flush and which to bin, it’s hoped those 300,000 sewer blockages each year will fall considerably. This will lessen the risk of pollution and mean less plastic getting into our rivers and seas, full stop. This can only be a positive thing when it comes to protecting our fish stocks. A potentially huge breakthrough, we think, which is why the Trust are right behind this initiative. Time will tell then, but it’s up to all of us to help spread the message.”
Meet our new Head of Campaigns
The Angling Trust is delighted to welcome experienced campaigner Stuart Singleton-White to our current team. He has over 30 years of experience in the environment and conservation world, both at the UK level and globally. With first class BSC Honours in Environmental Studies, he has worked with a range of key organisations, including the WWF and Rainforest Alliance.
FURTHER READING & USEFUL LINKS:
The Angling Trust’s Take 5 Campaign: We’re asking every angler to do their bit for cleaner rivers and fisheries with this simple request.
10 Bizarre, shocking & totally random things caught in UK rivers and canals: Our previous blog post on the issue of litter has some incredibly random finds from waters all over the UK, from discarded firearms to lost body parts!
Anglers Against Single Use Plastics Facebook Group: join the growing number of anglers working towards a cleaner future for our waterways and seas.