Lawsuits are now popping up across the country over the use of the word "flushable". Sewerage authorities claim that flushable wet wipes don't break apart, and, as a result, are destroying municipal sewer systems. The wipes cluster with congealed food fat to form large blockages. Last year a 10-ton lump was removed from the London sewer system at a cost of 400,000 Euros. Cases have also been reported in Newcastle, Sydney, San Francisco, Miami, New York City and Washington D.C. This isn't just an issue in the U.S. this is clearly a worldwide problem that has gone unregulated for far too long.
Wyoming, Minnesota, is one of the first American cities to take on the flushable-wet-wipes industry. In 2015, the city filed a class-action suit against Proctor & Gamble and other wet-wipe manufacturers for fraudulently promoting their products as flushable. After wet wipes are flushed, they exit a house through a lateral pipe that connects to a public sewer system, where sewage pumps ensure that the wastewater flows in the correct direction. But unlike toilet paper, wet wipes fail to disintegrate. They clog pumps, causing them to break down and redirect stagnant wastewater back towards houses. Sewer systems must be shut down so that the wipes can be manually removed. As of 2013, for wet wipes to be labeled "flushable," a wet wipe must pass several tests that evaluate its ability to disintegrate, biodegrade, and clear household and municipal sewer lines. But there is no penalty or fine if a wet-wipe manufacturer doesn't comply. The industry is self-regulated, without government oversight. That's right! you read that correctly. the wet wipe industry is self-regulated and they create their own ways of testing and determining if the wipes are "flushable". It's estimated that these wipes are costing billions of dollars a year in worldwide sewer maintenance. In an effort to ban wet wipes from being labeled "flushable" many countries have banned together to stop the rising cost of maintenance and also for environmental protection. These countries feared that if the wet wipe industry was not kept in check from a separate entity the problems these wipes are causing would persist. Not only are these wipes destroying sewage systems they are also effecting the environment. These wipes are mainly constructed of plastics and synthetic cellulosic fibers, some of which are non-degradable. Wet-wipe micro plastics essentially behave like all other microplastics, which have been proven to transport chemicals to wildlife and to harm marine invertebrates. They have also contributed to such environmental disasters such as the great Pacific garbage patch.
So all of this begs the question... what will we, the consumer do? Well, the answer is simple. We stop buying the products until they have been proven as being biodegradable. Until then, using these products and flushing them will slowly, but surely destroy our environment as well as infrastructure.