‘Fine to Flush’ logo launched to fight fatbergs

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 11 January 2019

The fight against fatbergs in UK sewers has received a major boost today with the publication of a new official standard identifying which wet wipes can be flushed down toilets safely.

Wet Wipe on Pebbles

Some products on the market labelled as flushable have been known to contain plastic fibres adding to plastic pollution in our oceans

Dr Laura Foster,
MCS Head of Clean Seas

In 2018, during the MCS annual Great British Beach Clean and survey, volunteers found on average 12 wet wipes per 100m of beach cleaned and surveyed - an increase of more than 300% over the last decade.

Dr. Laura Foster, MCS Head of Clean Seas, said: “Some products on the market labelled as flushable have been known to contain plastic fibres adding to plastic pollution in our oceans. In addition, they’re not designed for realistic conditions found in UK sewers, may not break down fast enough and therefore potentially contribute to blockages.”

Manufacturers of wipes will be able to feature the official water industry ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol on their packaging if they pass strict scientific tests. This symbol will let consumers know that the products don’t contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of clogging up sewers and contributing to fatbergs which cause blockages and sewage overflows.

Fatbergs – mainly caused by a build-up of wet wipes, fats, oils and grease into a solid mass – have been increasing in frequency in recent years. These include a 250-metre long fatberg in Whitechapel in London in 2017 which weighed as much as nineteen elephants, and a 64-metre fatberg which was discovered blocking a sewer this week in Sidmouth, Devon.

In 2017 the biggest ever in-depth investigation of sewer blockages in the UK proved that wipes being flushed down toilets caused serious problems in the sewerage system. The project found that non-flushable wet wipes could make up around 93% of the material causing some sewer blockages. These wipes – which included a high proportion of baby wipes – are not designed to be flushed.

Industry trade body, Water UK, Chief Executive, Michael Roberts said: “This is an important step in the battle against blockages. We’ve all seen the impact of fatbergs recently, and we want to see fewer of them. Improving the environment is at the core of what the water industry does, and the new ‘Fine to Flush’ standard that we’ve created will make it easier for consumers to buy an environmentally-friendly product instead of one which clogs up drains and sewers.”

Manufacturers can have their wipes tested by WRc, the Swindon-based independent technical experts who developed the specifications for flushability standards in conjunction with Water UK. If they pass the tests, the wipes manufacturers will receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol from WRc.

Dr Laura Foster added: “We will be asking retailers to ensure any product they tell consumers can be flushed, passes this new standard and any products which do not meet this standard are clearly labelled as ‘do not flush.’ This helps consumers make the right choices helping to reduce any potential blockages and know that their flushable product is also plastic free.”

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Did you know?…

UK seas and shores are places for leisure, sport, and holiday destination for millions annually

Every year, volunteers give us over 1,000 days of their time

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK