Wipes and other disposable products are one of the biggest causes of sewerage blockages and emergency call outs to sewerage pumping stations. Wipes now account for around half of sewer emergency incidents in the UK. With the increase in hand sanitisation requirements from the pandemic, wipes are being used more and more often for babies, make up removal and even kept in handbags and cars to be used as an extra level of hand hygiene. Most of the time these wipes end up being flushed down the toilet – and this is how blocked drains and sewers can happen.
Made of cotton fibres, some wipes also contain polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene and can take up to 500 years to decompose and even if wipes are labelled as biodegradable by the manufacturer, this doesn’t mean they instantly start decomposing – this process can still take months, and with the build-up of wipes that are continually being flushed, blockages and other problems can start to happen.
Let’s take a look at some of the other reasons why wipes can be problematic if they are flushed down the toilet and end up in the sewerage system.
Wipes Don’t Decompose
Flushing wipes down the toilet is just the beginning of the problems that can occur. The process of decomposition for wet wipes does not begin straight away once they have been flushed away – this process can take hundreds of years to fully break up and decompose. As they do not break apart, the flushed wipes will begin to form a massive build-up that leads to drains and sewers becoming blocked. The best way to dispose of wipes is to place them into a scented liner bag and pop it into your normal rubbish.
Wipes Create Fatbergs
A fatberg forms when flushed wet wipes combine with fat, grease and other debris to form an iceberg-like formation. Fatbergs cause huge blockages in drains and sewers and can be surprisingly large in size – with some even being 10 feet long! The infamous ‘Whitechapel Fatberg’ which was discovered in London’s sewers weighed 130 tonnes and stretched more than 250m. The fatberg which was a combination of congealed fat, wet wipes, nappies, oil and condoms took a massive nine weeks to remove the huge blockage.
Wipes Cause Damage to the Sewer Systems
If wipes that are flushed manage to reach the sewer system, they can still cause problems not only to your own home but to the sewerage system of the area in which you live. This is because drains become blocked, and the sewer contents can then come back up through your toilet, bath and sink. As the homeowner, you would then be landed with a large clean-up bill – not only for the cost of getting the drain unblocked, but also to repair or replace anything else that was damaged.
It is estimated that around 300,000 sewer blockages happen every year – the vast majority being caused by wipes, with an annual repair bill of around £100 million, it is now the time for everyone to understand the harm that flushing wipes can cause.
Contact our team of experts at Pump Supplies today – we are always ready to help and deliver a solution, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.