Baby wipes, tampons, kitty litter, facial towelettes – even a toilet brush – are now being marketed as flushable. While many of these products are labeled “biodegradeable” they do not break down in the sewer system and many are notorious for catching on obstructions and causing costly clogs and sewer overflows. For example, while toilet paper breaks down immediately, independent tests show that wipes change very little even after an hour of continuous flushing action. Moistened toilet tissue can be used as an alternative to wipes and does not contain potentially irritating chemicals such as fragrances.
If flushables do make it to the plant they must be screened out at our headworks and then trucked to the landfill, which is more costly than putting them in the trash in the first place. Also, some never make it to screening because they get stuck in machinery. Twice a week two employees have to dismantle our main influent pumps to remove wipes and other debris, a process that takes six to eight hours. Agencies are seeing increasing problems from flushables, something we all pay for long after manufactures make their profit.
After testing the disintegration rate of flushable wipes, Consumer Reports advised readers to dispose of them in the trash.