By Rebecca Smither Guardian /News & Media
The fight to eliminate “fatbergs” is to receive a major boost with the launch of a universal standard for wet wipes, clarifying which can be safely flushed down the toilet.
Manufacturers of wipes will be able to use a “fine to flush” symbol on their packaging — drawn up by the water industry — provided they pass stringent tests.
The logo aims to reassure consumers that the products do not contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of clogging up sewers and contributing to fatbergs.
Michael Roberts, the chief executive of Water UK, which represents major water and sewerage companies in Britain, said: “This is an important step in the battle against blockages.
We’ve all seen the impact of fatbergs, 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.”
Cities across the world are growing used to the scourge of subterranean fatbergs — caused mainly by a buildup of wet wipes, fats, oils and grease into a solid mass.
These include a 250-metre fatberg in Whitechapel in London in 2017, which weighed as much as 19 elephants, and a 64-metre fatberg discovered this week in Sidmouth, Devon.
In 2017, the biggest investigation of sewer blockages in UK history showed wipes flushed down toilets caused serious problems in the sewerage system.
The study found non-flushable wet wipes could account for about 93% of the material causing blockages.
The industry has long been campaigning to stamp out “misleading” labelling of many wipes described as flushable, but that do not break down quickly when they enter the sewer system.
Laura Foster, the head of clean seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “In 2018, during our annual Great British Beach Clean and survey, we found on average 12 wet wipes per 100 metres of beach cleaned — an increase of more than 300% over the past decade. We want a simple system where a product is either clearly labelled as ‘do not flush’ or has passed the ‘fine to flush’ standard.”
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