UK Public Rejects Government Disposable Wipes Proposals
Fatbergs are formed when non-biodegradable items such as wet wipes, sanitary products and nappies are flushed down toilets and combine with fats, oil and grease (FOG) to create vast masses that are blocking the nation’s sewers.
Forty-seven per cent of respondents in a survey of 1,000 people admitted to pouring FOG from cooking down the kitchen sink, 31 per cent to flushing wet wipes down the toilet, and 32 per cent to flushing kitchen roll (which does not disintegrate in the same way as toilet paper) down the toilet.
In spite of these habits, some 75 per cent of respondents said they were either ‘quite aware’ or ‘very aware’ of the dangers of pouring FOG down the drain.
The most commonly used disposable wipes in Britain are baby wipes (popular with 44 per cent of households) and antibacterial wipes (52 per cent). 59 per cent of respondents said they would not support the proposed government blanket ban on the sale of disposable wipes, which was suggested in May this year - with 43 per cent concurring with the statement that "There is nothing wrong with wipes, as long as people dispose of them correctly’.
Among those in favour of a government ban on disposable wipes, cleaning wipes and toilet tissue-style wipes were the most commonly selected as the types of wipes they would be in favour of banning. Baby wipes were the least likely to be selected, with just 15 per cent of respondents in favour of the government banning baby wipes. 41 per cent of respondents favouring a ban, cited wipes reflecting a ‘disposable culture’ that is bad for the environment, as their reason.
Michelle Ringland, Head of Marketing at Lanes for Drains, says: “After more than a decade in circulation with ever-increasing popularity, wet wipes have become one of the most environmentally damaging products in our households and people are dangerously reliant on them. The only way to stop them blocking the drains, polluting our waterways, contaminating oceans and killing marine life is to enforce a ban.
“In the meantime, the very least manufacturers can do is to change their packaging and branding to reflect the fact that no wipe is ‘flushable’ and the only safe way to dispose of them is in the bin.”
Research from Water UK reveals wipes make up around 93 per cent of material in sewer blockages, and are estimated to cause around 300,000 blockages every year at a cost of £100 million. Earlier this year, waterways charity, Thames21, revealed that more than 5,000 wet wipes were found in a single area of the Thames foreshore measuring 116 square metres, which is the highest concentration per area of land ever found in a single place in the UK.
General awareness of the environmental threat presented by 'fatbergs' is improving, however, with 61 per cent of the survey group in July 2018 indicating they are aware of the term and its meaning (compared to 47 per cent in September 2017). 49 per cent of this year's survey respondents also correctly answered, 'none', when asked which types of wet wipe are flushable (the corresponding figure for the 2017 survey was 49 per cent).
Michelle adds: "It is encouraging to see that people have a better understanding of the damage occurring in our sewers and how their daily behavior affects this. Our Fatberg Fighters initiative with schoolchildren during the past year has hopefully helped to raise this awareness. The conversation around plastics pollution, sparked by Blue Planet, has certainly spread the message about what should and should not go into our waterways, but we are only at the start of a long journey.”