Blocked Pipes: A Drain on Resources

4th April 2017

With University maintenance costs at £2bn a year and with the uncertainties of Brexit looming - the last thing our seats of learning need are massive bills due to flooding, blocked sewers and blocked toilets in Halls of Residence.
It costs £66 to £200 for a plumber to unblock clogged drains and it costs UK water companies around £80 million to remove blockages in our sewers annually.  Up to 80% of these blockages are caused by products which are not meant for our sewage systems.
One such product is the now infamous wet wipe. Used at will to remove make-up, freshen up your face, wipe round the toilet seat and even clean the floor.
The problem with wet wipes is most are used in the bathroom and for many, the obvious place to dispose of them is down the pan.
If wet wipes don’t immediately block toilets, they can form huge blockages in sewage pipes. To add to the costly problem, when we have excess rainfall, and our sewer pipes can’t cope, Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are used to release the blockages. The blockage has now gone but along with it so has the raw, untreated sewage which now flows into our rivers, estuaries and the sea. The health risks of bathing in this on our coastline do not need to be spelled out.
Overflows are screened, but many solids escape detection and end up in the environment. The Marine Conservation Society found and removed 3,955 wet wipes from our beaches in a single weekend last September – that’s an average of 47 wipes for every km of our beautiful coastline we cleaned.
Manufacturers label wet wipes as flushable – even biodegradable – but many contain plastic and don’t breakdown. Wet wipes may break up and become smaller, tiny particles – but they don’t disappear – they’ll become part of our ever-growing microplastic problem.
Universities have the capacity to help change this unsustainable legacy and reach millions of students – many of whom will be living away from home for the first time and living in rooms with no bins in the bathroom and no parents or guardians to point the finger when a blockage occurs.
Please spread the message that wet wipes must not go down the loo and encourage people to sign our petition for clearer labelling on wet wipe products.
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