Disappointing judgement over “flushable” wipes

Water New Zealand says the ruling by an Australian federal judge that Kimberly-Clark did not break the laws in marketing its wipes as flushable is extremely disappointing.

Technical manager, Noel Roberts says there is very clear evidence that flushing non-flushable items such as wipes causes damage to the environment and puts public health at risk through sewage overflows.

“Wastewater overflows, caused by wipes, has closed at least 2 New Zealand beaches after sewage contamination occurred.”

He says it’s been estimated in New Zealand that the cost of unblocking clogged pipes caused by non-flushable products comes to at least $16-m a year.

“As well as the environmental and health consequences, that’s an otherwise avoidable cost that has comes straight out of ratepayers’ pockets.”

Water New Zealand’s latest performance comparison report, the National Performance Review, found that since 2013-14 the number of sewage overflows occurring during dry weather blockages has increased five-fold.Dry weather blockages are directly linked to obstructions in pipes.

“It would appear there is a correlation between the increase sales of wipes and sewers blocking.”

“We know that many wipes are labelled as flushable and as a result people mistakenly believe that they behave like toilet paper in the pipes, unfortunately they do not break down in the same way as toilet paper.”

“We need people to understand that flushing anything other than pee, poo and toilet paper damages sewerage systems and they cause costly clean ups.

He says this is a problem world-wide.

“That’s why it is extremely disappointing that a federal judge did not uphold the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) claims that consumers have been misled by false labelling.

Ironically, the judge said that there was ample evidence that “wipe” products generally are a significant management problem for municipal sewerage systems, impairing the function of infrastructure and increasing maintenance costs.

Media Release Wastewater Water New Zealand Wet wipes