This is a guest post written by Hayley Edwards, Welsh Water employee.
I never meant to become a wet wipe addict.
At first, they were just a handy way for wiping my babies’ bums. Then I started using them to wipes their faces, then their high chairs.
Wipes are so easy for Mabel’s mucky chops!
Next thing I knew, I was using them for everything – food splats on the table, spills on the floor and even the crayon marks on the walls. From dusting off the banisters to removing mud off the front door, a wet wipe can clean off just about anything.
Why wouldn’t you love a cleaning product can be used for everything from removing eye makeup to dusting your window sills? With a wet wipe, you can do things long assumed to be beyond human ingenuity: remove food marks from your jeans, for example, or even scrub toothpaste off a jumper.
And if you’re anywhere near the bathroom, what’s the easiest way of getting rid of them? The toilet. One flush and they’re gone. Job done.
But, then I started working for Welsh Water and saw consequences of the nation’s growing wet wipe obsession first hand. I discovered what happens once that toilet is flushed. It wasn’t pretty.
Removed from a blocked sewer by Welsh Water.
Welsh Water deal with 2,000 blockages a month – and 75% of these are caused by wipes, sanitary items, cotton buds or other items being flushed away, which congeals into an even bigger underground mountain of mess when it mixes with fat and grease from our sinks.
These startling facts got me thinking about my own wet wipe habit. I’m hooked and I’m not the only one. The popularity of wet wipes has increased hugely over the last few years.
The problem is that wet wipes, baby wipes, make-up wipes, moist wipes, and cleaning wipes don’t actually break up in the pipes like toilet tissue does (even the ones advertised as “flushable”, which was news to me!).
As people flush without thinking, water companies across the world are struggling to keep sewers flowing. If a blockage isn’t caught in time, the results can be horrendous. In the sewers, wet wipes float on top of the wastewater, absorbing oils and grease, and clumping together with fat and grease to form blockages or giant ‘fatbergs’ like you’ve seen in London.
A Fatberg found in Cardiff sewer.
Seeing this first hand has made me face up to my habits…
The thought of monster wet wipe clumps lurking in the sewers below your home is enough to put anyone off their tea, but the risk of blockages brings with it even more stomach-churning consequences. It’s safe to say that every time I consider flushing my beloved wipes, the possibility of homes, beaches and neighbourhoods being flooded with sewage because of me stops me dead in my tracks.
Every wipe, cotton bud or piece of dental floss I now use goes straight into the bin. But that’s still not a great solution – to send all those things to landfill.
Wet wipes haven’t been easy part with, I’ve tried going back to my pre-wet wipe life: removing your makeup with a facecloth, washing your hands with soap and water, and cleaning surfaces with a reusable cloth instead of cleaning wipe. I only use wet wipes for nappy changes and the odd sticky face.
And most importantly I make sure that wet wipes go in a bin, not down the loo.
By making these small changes, I’ve doing my little bit to prevent homes and neighbourhoods being flooded and protecting the rivers and seas. So Mabel and her sister can enjoy the beaches for years to come.