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  • by Karma Loveday

Industry launches wet wipe flushability standard as fatbergs hit the headlines

A new official standard was launched last week identifying which wet wipes can be flushed down toilets safely.

Wipe manufacturers can now have their wipes tested by WRc, which developed specifications for flushability standards (Water Industry Specification 4-02-06) in conjunction with Water UK. If they pass the tests, the wipes will receive an official water industry ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol. This will let consumers know that the products don’t contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of contributing to fatbergs and blockages.

In 2017 the biggest ever in-depth investigation of sewer blockages in the UK found that non-flushable wet wipes could make up around 93% of the material causing some blocks. There are approximately 300,000 sewer blockages annually, costing the country £100 million.

Reaction on social media has been mixed, with some welcoming the new symbol and some arguing a simple ‘don’t flush any wipes’ message is preferable to avoid consumer confusion.

Meanwhile South West Water received copious media coverage of the discovery of what widely dubbed a “monster” fatberg under the esplanade at Sidmouth.

The 64 metre long clog of hardened fat, oil and wet-wipes is the biggest ever discovered in Devon and is thought to be one of the largest found so close to the sea. South West Water’s director of wastewater, Andrew Roantree, said: “It shows how this key environmental issue is not just facing the UK’s cities, but right here in our coastal towns.”

South West Water estimates it will take around eight weeks to remove. The fat will be used to generate green energy. The company has used the discovery to raise awareness of flushables and fats, oils and grease issues and will accompany the removal with a pop up shop in Sidmouth to highlight its ThinkSink and Love Your Loo campaigns.

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