Tauranga City Council wages war on wet wipes

A wastewater pump in Tauranga blocked with wet wipes flushed down the toilet.

Pee, poo and paper are the only things you should be flushing down the toilet.

That’s the message from Tauranga City Council as it launches a ‘Save our pipes from wipes’ campaign in a bid to stop people from flushing wet wipes down the toilet.

Two tonnes of wet wipes – the size of a small elephant – clog the city’s wastewater system every week, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to clean up.

Environment Committee chair Steve Morris says flushing wet wipes – even if they’re marketed as ‘flushable’ – is a bad idea for Tauranga’s pipes and wastewater system.

“Wet wipes don’t break down in the wastewater system like toilet paper,” he says.

“Instead, they mix with fats and oils, causing pipe blockages known as ‘fatbergs’.”

As well as costing ratepayers money in increased maintenance costs, flushing wet wipes down the toilet is bad for the environment, says Steve.

“Putting wipes down the toilet can block pipes, which can lead to wastewater overflows into our waterways, beaches, our harbour or into people’s houses.

“If wet wipes do make it through the system without causing a blockage, they need to be physically removed at our wastewater treatment plants, which adds to the cost of treatment.

“Our wastewater treatment plants are under increasing stress because of the growing mass of products being flushed into our wastewater system.”

Steve stresses that people should only ever flush the three Ps – pee, poo and paper.

“Wet wipes are regularly marketed as being ‘flushable’,” he says, “but the truth is that under normal wastewater conditions, these wipes do not break down.

“In fact, one of the main materials used to make these wipes is plastic.

“We can’t stop companies advertising their products as being flushable, but what we can do is raise awareness of the damage they cause to our wastewater system and the environment.

“Our new campaign reminds people we have an elephant-sized problem, and that when they’re in the privacy of their loo that wet wipes are never flushable. Instead, please put them in the bin.”