Bin the Wipe
Wet wipes are the biggest causes of blockages and sewer flooding, and we really need your help. You can make a massive difference by making one easy change: Bin the Wipe.

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Many wipes are made from plastic, which means they don’t break down in water like toilet roll. Our toilets and sewer pipes are not designed for wipes. Even if the wipes aren’t in your toilet bowl, they might get stuck in the pipes near your home, or someone else’s.

 

Flushed wipes contribute to more than 60% of sewer blockages in the North East: it’s a huge issue.

 

Flushing the wrong things down the toilet cause huge problems inside customers’ homes, in our communities and our environment.

 

Things that shouldn’t be flushed include period products which also contain a lot of plastic. Switching to plastic free or reusable products is far better for the planet. Find out how you can Rethink Periods here.

 

Wrongly flushed items are a nightmare for everyone as they can cause all sorts of problems inside customers' homes, in the communities we live in and for the environment. 

 

Northumbrian Water is working hard to raise awareness of these issues, so that you know about the problems wet wipes can cause.

What can happen if there’s a blockage in the sewers?

When sewage can’t flow down the sewer pipes because of a blockage, it has to go somewhere else. This could be your street, garden or even back into your home through the toilet, or drains in your bath, sink and shower, flooding your bathroom and home.

 

The only wipes that can safely be flushed are wipes that have passed the water industry’s standard, ‘Fine to Flush’.

 

So unless they have the official 'Fine to Flush’ symbol, toilet wipes, baby wipes, make-up wipes and cleaning wipes should all be binned after use - even ones that say they are flushable.

Things we get asked . . .
What if it says 'flushable'? Is that ok?

No. It really is as simple as that.

What about 'Fine To Flush'? Is that ok?

We’d still rather you didn’t flush ANY wipe. It’s the only certain way to make sure your wipe doesn’t cause sewer strife!


However . . .

 

Fine to Flush is the only official standard identifying which wipes can be flushed down toilet safely.


Companies can apply for their products to be tested independently by Wrc (approved by Water UK, which represents the water industry) to see if they meet the Fine to Flush criteria, and in doing so will be allowed to use the labelling 'Fine to Flush'.


Whilst we would always prefer our customers to Bin The Wipe, we do acknowledge and welcome the work that has been done to improve labelling and test products in accordance with the fine to flush standard.

Why can they say they are 'flushable' if you say they aren’t?

We, and the rest of the water industry, are trying to encourage manufacturers to stop using the term, but such processes take time, which is why we ask people to not flush any wipes. That can be done now.


The testing that manufacturers carry out, which is not in accordance with fine to flush, in order to ‘prove’ flushability, doesn’t accurately reflect the reality the conditions within a drainage system and therefore what happens to a wipe when it’s flushed.


The mild turbulence as they’re washed through the u-bend really does very little and certainly doesn’t break them up and stop them from settling or snagging in sewers and contributing to blockages.

I only flush one at a time, two at most. That can’t hurt . . . can it?

Yes, it can.


Remember that your sewer pipe will meet up with those of your neighbours . . . 


. . . then the rest of the street . . .


. . . then other streets close by . . . 


. . . and in some cases large sections of your village or town, if not the whole area, before reaching a treatment works.


So, your 'one little wipe' can meet up with the 'one little wipes' of thousands of other people along the way (plus lots of other things that get wrongly flushed).


That means it could end up in a blockage near your home, or further away, and, while you may never know about it, it really could be horrific for someone.

Why don’t you just make the sewers bigger?

A wipe can settle or snag in any sized pipe.


Plus, we have 18,000 miles of sewer in the North East. While we carry out upgrades and maintenance across our network, replacing it all would mean decades of disruption and be very expensive – with our customers inevitably seeing bills rise.


Whereas, not flushing wipes is a free, instant change that we can all make to achieve the same result.

Can you really trace wipes back to the property from which they were flushed?

Yes and we do. Watch this video on how we trace wipes back to one property.

Can you really charge customers who flush wipes?

Yes. We don’t want to, but we can, and we have.


What we really want, though, is for customers to hear our Bin The Wipe message and make the change before it ever comes to that.

 

However, when people continue to repeatedly flush wipes when we have asked them not to, and explained the good they can do by not using their toilet as a bin, we can:

  • Recharge the cost of clearing blockages
  • Prosecute them under the Water Industry Act 1991, which is the law that makes it illegal to put anything into the sewer that can impede the flow of the waste that should be in there.
I’ve flushed wipes all my life, but my house has never flooded.

It sounds like you’ve been very lucky.


But maybe other people haven’t been so lucky.


Your wipes may have contributed to a blockage elsewhere in the network that has backed up into someone else’s home.


Or it may have caused a surcharge into the environment.


Imagine if a friend or relative experienced sewage flooding into their home because of your flushing habits.


Time to Bin The Wipe?

What alternatives are there if I want to stop using them altogether?

People use wipes for all sorts of things.


They’re so handy, we know it would be a waste of time asking people not to use them, which is why, when we say 'Bin The Wipe', we mean put them in the bin, not stop using them.


However, most wipes contain plastics, so we welcome when customers choose to replace them with products that are better for the environment, such as flannels.


One of our Apprentices created a series of videos, trying out some alternatives that can be used for make-up removal and you can watch them here.

We pay Northumbrian Water to deal with blockages as part of our bill.

It’s true that the maintenance of sewers is part of the service we provide that is paid for by customers’ bills.


However, flushing wipes is a misuse of the sewer network, which is there to take toilet paper, pee and poo. Putting items in the sewer that can cause blockages is illegal under the Water Industry Act 1991.

How you can help

You can help us with the fight against wipes and to spread the word to Bin the Wipe! Download our social media banners to use on your own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram page, or why not download our poster to display in your window?

Bin the Wipe - downloads

#BinTheWipe - videos

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