Fine to Flush standard “a positive step” says utility specialist

Fine to Flush logo

Drainage and utility specialist Lanes Group plc has welcomed a new official standard for wet wipes that can be flushed down toilets safely – but is keen to see a complete ban on all non-degradable wet wipes.

Industry body Water UK has teamed up with Anglian Water and other water companies to create the new ‘Fine to Flush’ standard to tackle the tens of thousands of blockages caused by wet wipes every year.

Wipe manufacturers can now feature an official water industry ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol on their packaging if their products pass strict scientific tests.

The symbol is designed to let consumers know that the products do not contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of blocking pipes and contributing to fatbergs.

Michelle Ringland, Head of Marketing at Lanes Group, said: “Companies introducing fine-to-flush labels is a significant step in the right direction.

“Wipes are responsible for 93% of blockages and contribute significantly to the increasing numbers of fatbergs forming across the UK.

“It’s crucial for manufacturers to take responsibility for the blockages caused by non-flushable and supposedly ‘flushable’ wipes and clear up any confusion the consumer has about flushing or binning the wipe.”

She said blockages and fatbergs, which cause sewage floods and cost £millions every year to clear, are not the only consequence of flushing wipes. They also wash up on beaches and are contributing plastics in waterways and oceans, creating a threat to marine life.

Michelle Ringland added: “While ‘Fine to Flush’ is a good start, it is not the end of this issue. We hope to see, and will contribute to, continued work that must end with a total ban on all non-degradable wet wipes.”

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.

Wet wipes can make up around 93 per cent of the material causing some sewer blockages. These wipes – which included a high proportion of baby wipes – are not designed to be flushed.

Lanes is at the forefront of the battle to keep the nation’s drains and sewers flowing freely. As the wastewater network services partner for Thames Water, it cleared the 250-metre-long Whitechapel fatberg which went on to spawn a museum exhibition and is being turned into a musical.

Lanes delivers wastewater services across the UK for Anglian Water, Scottish Water, Northumbrian Water and Scottish Water.

It also has its own schools education campaign called Fatberg Fighters, providing teachers with a professionally-designed lesson about the environmental and social consequences of disposing of wipes and fats down drains, plus the science of fatbergs.

The wipe manufacturing industry has responded to criticism by introducing its own labelling guidelines. This has contributed to an increase in products being labelled ‘Do Not Flush’.

However, Water UK points out that there are many wipes on the market labelled ‘flushable’ which do not break down quickly when they enter the sewer system, and which would not meet the standard needed to receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol.

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