Public urged to bin ‘harmful’ wet wipes as over a fifth admit to flushing down the toilet
- New research shows that 22% of people admit to flushing wet wipes down the toilet despite 88% saying they are aware they harm the environment
- This is despite an overwhelming majority of the public saying they care about protecting the environment (91%), pollution of rivers and seas (91%), and protecting animals (93%)
- Wet wipes are the single biggest cause of fatbergs that block sewage systems, and are a major contributor towards littering in rivers
- Water UK is urging the public to “Bin the Wipe” in new campaign to raise awareness of the issues that flushing wet wipes can cause
Today, water companies across the UK have joined forces to urge the public to stop flushing wet wipes, in a new national campaign to get people to ‘Bin the Wipe’ and help protect the environment and prevent homes and businesses from being flooded. The campaign launches as new research reveals that over a fifth (22%) of people admit to flushing wet wipes down the toilet.
This is despite findings that 88% of people in the UK are aware that flushing wet wipes can harm the environment, an issue that 91% of people said was important to them.
“Bin the Wipe” is a campaign launched by Water UK to stop people from flushing wet wipes; one of the UK’s biggest issues when it comes to blocked drains and damaged sewers, and a major contributor towards littering in rivers.
75% of drain blockages are caused by people flushing wet wipes down the toilet. This is because the vast majority of wet wipes contain strong fibres, which means, unlike toilet paper, they don’t break down in the plumbing within our homes or in sewers.
Wet wipes are one of the main ingredients of ‘fatbergs’ that block sewers. There are approximately 300,000 sewer blockages a year, costing the country £100 million. Thousands of properties suffer sewer flooding caused by these blockages every year in the UK, creating misery for homeowners and businesses, and leading to high clean-up bills and increased insurance costs.
Wet wipes are a major cause of pollution in our seas and rivers especially when fibres become trapped inside animals, leading to starvation and ultimately killing them – today’s campaign aims to ensure wipes are disposed of in the bin, avoiding the risk of them being washed into rivers.
Of those who admitted to flushing wet wipes, an overwhelming majority said that protecting the environment was an important issue to them (89%), along with protecting animals (91%), pollution of rivers and seas (87%). Seven in ten people (71%) still use wet wipes today, despite 83% of people saying that using sustainable products was important to them.
Peter Jenkins, Director of Campaigns at Water UK, said:
“Today’s research has revealed that an alarming number of people continue to flush wet wipes down their loo, even when they know the detrimental effect this can have on issues they care about, such as the environment.
“Our national Bin the Wipe campaign aims to encourage people to break the habit of flushing wet wipes down the toilet. By binning wet wipes instead, you can safeguard against blockages in pipes or even flooding in your home, while also helping to protect the environment.”
Heidi Mottram, Chief Executive of Northumbrian Water, said:
“Bin the Wipe is a really important message and asks for such a really simple change to people’s habits. It’s so easy to do and makes a massive difference.
“Since we started asking our customers across the North East to Bin the Wipe at the start of 2020, we have seen blockages reduced by 52% and a 64% decrease in home flooding incidents in the areas where we have taken our campaign.
“We are really excited about the prospect of people across the country getting the message and benefiting from the impact it can have for people’s homes and the environment.”
The Bin the Wipe campaign was previewed at a recent parliamentary event hosted by Putney, Roehampton and Southfields MP Fleur Anderson, whose Private Members’ Bill is calling for plastic to be removed from wet wipes.
The event was a chance for parliamentarians to learn more about the campaign and how they can help change consumer behaviour.
Fleur Anderson, MP for Putney, Roehampton & Southfields, said:
"I'm delighted that Water UK are launching their campaign to let people know that they must always Bin the Wipe. This is the first time all the water companies have come together to raise awareness of this really important environmental issue.
“I know that millions of people don't currently know about the damage that is done by flushing wet wipes, and I've been campaigning for years to ban plastic in wet wipes as well as highlight the need to bin, never flush.”
Notes to editors:
- Savanta surveyed 2,320 UK adults online between 27-29th January. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all UK adults by age, gender region and social grade
- Men are more likely to flush wet wipes than women – 27% of men said they flushed wet wipes compared with 18% of women.
- Young people aged 18-24 were the worst flushing offenders by far, with almost half (44%) admitting to flushing wipes. This compares to just 12% of those over the age of 65.
- Bin the Wipe is a national campaign from Water UK to tackle one of the UK’s biggest issues when it comes to blocked drains and damaged sewers: flushed wet wipes. You can find more information at www.binthewipe.org