Wipes causing 'hideous' blockages
Water companies have warned that wet wipes are causing thousands of "utterly hideous" blockages and costing millions of pounds every year.
Thames Water said the wipes can cause sewage to back up into customers' homes and gardens, and that 3,500 blockages a month were caused by wet wipes and flushed food fat.
The company said it was spending £12 million a year clearing blockages from sewers in London and the Thames Valley.
Rob Smith, chief sewer flusher, said: "Sewers are designed to take only loo roll, dirty water and human waste. Nothing else. But sadly we are seeing more and more fat and wet wipes - which should never be flushed even if the packaging says 'flushable' - ending up in our sewers.
"That's a big headache for us, but it can also lead to sewage backing up into our customers' homes and gardens, which is utterly hideous. Our plea is for everyone to heed the sewermen's war cry: 'Bin it - don't block it'."
United Utilities, which has seven million customers across the north west, spends £20 million a year tackling 53,000 blockages, many of which are caused by wipes being flushed, the company said.
Tony Griffiths, a United Utilities wastewater network manager, said: "There are only three things that can be safely flushed down the loo without danger of blockage - pee, poo and paper. Flushing other items risks a big plumbing bill, as well as environmental damage.
"With such a multitude of cleaning and cleansing wipes now being actively marketed as 'flushable', we felt we needed to do more to raise awareness of this problem with our Can't Flush This campaign."
Tristram Wilkinson, vice president and country manager for Kimberly-Clark, which manufactures wet wipes under the Andrex and Kleenex brands, said: "As a responsible company, we take the issue of flushability and the environment very seriously. We share Thames Water's concern for the environment and as a responsible manufacturer, we are already working with other interested parties, such as Water UK.
"Neither baby wipes nor fats should be disposed of through the sewage system and we believe we have a common interest in working with the water authorities to ensure consumers are better informed about what should, and should not, be flushed."