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Wet wipe ruling welcomed by water companies

Water companies have welcomed a ruling saying wet wipe manufacturers need to be clearer when they are marketing their products as flushable.

It comes just days after Thames Water pulled a giant mass of wipes which stretched for almost 20 metres from a sewer in North London.

Each year, the firm clears 75,000 blockages, at a cost of £1 8million, with wet wipes that do not break down in the system being a major cause.

This week, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled an online advert by Kimberley-Clark broke guidelines by wrongly implying its wipes met a single national standard for flushability. While it meets a standard set by manufacturers, it does not meet the Fine to Flush standard which is used by the water companies responsible for the sewers.

The North London mass of wet wipes resulted in the sewers flooding several gardens and took a team of engineers more than five hours to remove.

Thames Water network performance manager Stephen Pattenden said: “This was hundreds of wipes stuck together which caused unpleasant flooding for customers and had to be removed by hand.

“Wet wipes are a major problem across our network so we welcome anything which helps to clarify the issue for customers.

“We accept wet wipes are convenient but we would ask anyone using them to make sure they look for the Fine to Flush logo so we can reduce the number of blockages in our sewers which would in turn cut pollution.”

Anglian Water has also welcomed the ruling. Rachel Dyson, the company’s Keep It Clear programme manager said "We are delighted that it has been recognised that companies cannot ignore the Fine to Flush Standard which was launched earlier this year. Companies whose products pass the standard are letting consumers know that their products don't contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of clogging up sewers and contributing to blockages, fatbergs and sewage overflows."

The Fine to Flush standard has been developed by Water UK, in partnership with companies like Thames Water, to demonstrate products which breakdown in the sewers and do not cause blockages. Products which have passed rigorous testing can put a special logo on the packaging.

Water UK director of corporate affairs Rae Stewart said: "Water UK is very clear - wipes manufacturers should not label or sell products advertised as flushable if they don't pass the official Fine to Flush standard.

“Our research shows that wipes can be a major contributor to sewer blockages, and customers have been left confused by wipes labelled flushable. If a wipe doesn't have the official Fine to Flush label we do not regard it as flushable, and it should go in the bin not the toilet.

"We look forward to working with Kimberly-Clark as they seek to meet the Fine to Flush standard for their products."

Author: Alec Peachey,
Topic: Customer experience , Sewer Networks
Tags: Anglian Water , wet wipes , Thames Water , Water UK , sewers

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