Wet Wipe Flushability – The million dollar topic in the Plumbing and Wastewater industry today
Terry’s Plumbing, a company in Pittsburg, PA was curious to find out the answer for themselves and set out to follow the path of wet wipes from start to finish.
First off, why are wet wipes suddenly all the rage? There’s two main reasons: convenience and comfort/cleanliness – both factors that users claim to experience from their usage in the restroom. So what makes them so harmful? While convenience and comfort for the consumer are a huge plus, the risks out weigh the benefits. The harm being done to sewer systems around the world is not only very costly to cities, but the increase in waste from the thick wet wipes is piling up in and causing dangerous backup and sewage spills.
What did Terry’s Plumbing find in their exploration of the wet wipe life cycle? Sure, if you’re talking literally about a single wipe being able to physically move down the drain, then yes, it’s flushable. However, once the wipe reaches underground pipes it has the potential of getting stuck during transit on infiltrating tree roots in the ground. Unlike regular toilet paper, which breaks down in less than a day of being submerged in water, the wet wipes don’t dissolve for many months, causing the build up in the resident’s yard even before it can get to the treatment facility.
Should the wet wipes make it past this point, they will eventually reach the local sewage treatment plant. Typical city infrastructure isn’t designed to handle large amounts of trash and other unflushables – and this is where the expensive clogs happen. Wet wipes mix together with fats, oils, grease and trash and these clumps continue to build up for years on end. To date, the largest fatberg buildup was 15 tons and the size of a large school bus.
The fact that many of these wipes are being marketed as flushable, keeps them competitive with their paper rival as users are not forced to find some alternative means of disposing of them.
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