Flushable Wipes’ Public Image Is in the Sh*tter

The London Fatberg is growingFlushable wipes are fighting a PR campaign in the sewers, where they contribute about a third of the debris choking screens and pumps in U.S. treatment plants.

Over the last five years in New York City alone, more than $18 million has been spent repairing and replacing damage that the anal retentive among us hath wrought:

The globs aren’t unique to New York…in London, a 15-ton wad of wet wipes and cooking grease last year accumulated to the size of a yellow school bus inside a sewer line, preventing neighborhood toilets from flushing. It took more than three weeks for Thames Water Utilities Ltd. to break up the “fatberg.”

Similar blockages have been experienced in Orange County, California; Columbus, Georgia; and Vancouver, Washington. PortlandMaine’s Water District is still paying for the $4.3 million it borrowed in 2009, an amount almost equal to half its annual operating costs, for screens to catch wipes before they ruin pumps. [Bloomberg]

Oh, and there’s more! So very much more.

The problem is that consumers think these wipes flushable; they’re not. Another problem is that they’re really profitable: “Sales of moist flushable wipes are a source of sales growth in the household paper-products industry, rising 23 percent to $367 million from 2008 to 2013.”

Actually, it’s the same problem: making a toilet-friendly wipe is cost-prohibitive, so wet wipes are profitable because they’re not flushable.

At state is nothing less than “the long-term viability of the product category,” says David Rousse, president of the manufacturers’ advocacy group Association of Nonwoven Fabrics Industry.

Companies, meanwhile, are defending themselves from all this poop.

They’ve been quick to voice both their confidence in both the easily disposable nature of their products and their commitment to invest “significant time and resources to understand the difficult issue…”

Still, it’s hard to find the do-not-flush instructions on the packaging, and the excuses keep coming from manufacturers and retailers who do not want a more visible logo on the packages so they can continue to claim that their sh*t doesn’t stink.

“…but it is time for the excuses to stop,” says Cynthia Finley, director of regulatory affairs for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies in Washington.

If you can make it through either of these clips, we’re sure you’ll agree!

(And we hope you already ate lunch.)