All manner of things get flushed down our drains, things that can have quite a nasty impact. The problem is that many of us believe that some ‘flushables’ are indeed flushable, but that’s not necessarily the case…
The other week my house was in peril of being flooded because heavy rain caused a sewer pipe around the corner to burst.
It did so in the early morning and overflowed all day, creating a lake of filthy water deeper than you could wade through with wellies that cut our street off completely.
The fire service couldn’t do anything to pump the flood water away while the sewer was still filling up and a number of houses ended up with dirty water flooding their ground floors.
What made the situation particularly horrid was the fact that the water was full of things that people had flushed away – ‘flushable’ wipes, tampons, condoms, panty liners and other sanitary towel backings.
Later in the day, I realised that a white square we could see under the surface of the water was a street drain that looked completely blocked by all these nasty non-flushables.
I managed to clear an entire section of flooding in the road simply by prising the collection of non-flushables back out again. Unfortunately, the rest of the flood water was too deep to find the other drains.
The pumping trucks did finally turn up that night to clean the water away, but by then the entire area was covered in the remains of the non-flushables. Even the hedgerows opposite the pumping station were dripping with them.
The whole event was thoroughly revolting, so I was more than happy to hear last week that UK water companies are leading a battle against so-called flushable products.
They, along with their counterparts in nine other countries, have signed a declaration outlining the water industry’s position on ‘flushables’ and called upon manufacturers to clearly label them as non-flushable until an international flushability standard is agreed upon.
The UK companies have also complained to the Advertising Standards Agency and called for a ban on the word ‘flushable’ on wipes. Increasingly, these are used in place of toilet paper, as people mistakenly believe they disintegrate just as easily. The fact that manufacturers put words like: ‘Breaks down easily’, as Which? Conversation community member JamesPhennah pointed out, doesn’t help matters.
In truth, sewerage systems can’t process them, so they’re often washed into the sea, ending up on our beaches. According to the Marine Conservation Society, the number of them littering UK beaches rose by 50% in 2014. The UK water industry estimates that it costs around £90m a year to unblock sewers clogged up, in part, by non-flushables.
So, have you ever had an unfortunate incident with ‘flushable’ products? Do you think more should be done to prevent these non-flushables entering the sewer system?