Leading marine charity says there's widespread support to ditch 'flushable' claim from wet wipe packaging

Date posted: 5 September 2017

As a monster made out of wet wipes heads to the Thames, the UK’s leading marine charity says there’s widespread support to ditch ‘flushable’ claim from wet wipe packaging.

Wet Wipe M_Wallace
© Jack Versiani Holt

At an Event on Sunday 10th September the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is bringing Wallace, it’s huge inflatable monster made out of wet wipes, to TideFest - the riverside event celebrating the recreational importance of the Thames Tideway to Londoners.

Wallace’s appearance comes as MCS reveals that 83% of UK public questioned in a YouGov poll for the charity said they’d like to see the word ‘flushable’ removed from all wet wipe packaging if the wipes didn’t meet water industry standards for what can be safely flushed down the toilet without causing blockages.

MCS says that the number of wet wipes found on UK beaches have increased by almost 700% over the last decade. The little squares are commonly used in the bathroom to remove makeup clean up babies’ bottoms and wipe toilet seats - once used they’re then often mistakenly popped down the pan and flushed.

MCS has been touring Wallace around coastal resorts over the past year to help explain to the public the financial and environmental cost of putting the wrong stuff down the loo! The bespoke art installation made out of wet wipes inflates from a very small pile of wipes on the sand to a 8m wide x 3.5m tall monster.

MCS Head of Pollution Dr Laura Foster says Wallace has really helped highlight the damage associated with flushing wet wipes: “We’ve been campaigning for retailers to stop misleading the public by labelling wet wipes as flushable because they’re known to be failing the water industry standard for what can be safely flushed. So far no wet wipes have passed this ‘flushability’ test and that’s why we will be asking everyone at TideFest to remember that all wet wipes belong in the bin.”

MCS says its poll shows that people don’t want to be misled at the point of purchase.

“Telling consumers something is flushable gives them permission to flush it. But it’s clear that the public don’t want to be putting stuff down the loo if it’s not actually flushable. Removing the claims or re-labelling ‘not flushable’ would be an easy win for our oceans” says Dr Foster.

Thames Water who is funding Wallace’s appearance at TideFest has 108 000km of sewers and spends £1m a month clearing blockages from them.

Thames Water’s head of sewer networks Matt Rimmer says: “Wipes often labelled ‘flushable’ are a massive issue for us. They may disappear when you flush the toilet but they don’t break down in the sewer pipes. We’re lobbying manufacturers government and retailers to correctly label the wipes as ‘unflushable’ and to change what they’re made from but in the meantime we need everyone to put a bin in their bathroom and stop flushing them. We hope seeing Wallace at Tidefest will really help to support our ‘Bin it - don’t block it’ message.”

MCS will be collecting signatures at TideFest asking manufacturers for clearer labelling on wet wipes. The petition will be handed to Edana - the wet wipe industry trade body.

MCS hopes the support will show that the public want flushable to mean just that - safe to flush without causing problems to our sewers. If it’s not safe then advice to flush should be removed and replaced with a clear Do Not Flush on the front of the pack.


Actions you can take

  1. Join the fight against the 'unflushables'

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