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Think before you flush - Anglian Water brings in flushability standards

An example of a blockaged removed by Anglian Water. Picture: Anglian Water

An example of a blockaged removed by Anglian Water. Picture: Anglian Water

Archant

Blockages in sewers cost the East of England £15 million a year according to Anglian Water.

This is why they have teamed up with Water UK and other water companies in launching a ‘flushability’ standard for all wet wipes in a bid to combat blockages.

Manufacturers of wipes will be able to feature an official water industry ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol on their packaging if their wipes pass strict scientific tests.

This symbol will let consumers know that the products do not contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of clogging up sewers.

Rachel Dyson, Anglian Water’s Keep It Clear programme manager said: “Wipes cause real problems in the sewer network and have a devastating impact on customers.

An Anglian Water team at work detecting and repairing leaks. Picture: Anglian Water.An Anglian Water team at work detecting and repairing leaks. Picture: Anglian Water.

“Wipes are by far the worst culprit but cotton buds, tampons and fats also cause problems in the sewers. They result in around 80 per cent of the 40,000 blockages across the East of England each year.”

Sewer blockages and fatbergs, caused by a build-up of wet wipes, fats, oils and grease, have been increasing in frequency in recent years.

Anglian Water estimates around 800 tonnes of wipes and sanitary items are flushed every week in the East of England region.

Although there has been an increase in products being labelled ‘Do Not Flush’, Anglian Water says there are wipes on the market labelled ‘flushable’ which do not break down quickly when they enter the sewer system.

Valve cutting operation on a pipe at the Diddington Reservoir. Picture: 

Matthew Power Photography
.Valve cutting operation on a pipe at the Diddington Reservoir. Picture: Matthew Power Photography .

It is estimated in the UK that companies spend about £100 million every year to unblock sewers clogged by unflushable wipes and hygiene products.

Manufacturers can have their wipes tested by WRc, a Swindon-based independent technical expert, which developed the specifications for flushability standards in conjunction with Water UK.

If they pass the tests, manufacturers will receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol from WRc to add to their packaging.

The move comes after multiple fatbergs have had to be removed around the country. Most noticeably the fatberg that was found in Whitechapel, London, in 2017.

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