It’s time to stop flushing wipes to let our rivers run

Jayne Mann


Nobody wants to walk along their local river and see wet wipes littering its banks or decorating its trees, yet for some local residents in the North West this is an unfortunate reality. Wet wipes flushed down the toilet don’t disintegrate like toilet paper. In heavy rainfall, they can leave the sewer system through combined sewer overflows and end-up strewn along riverbanks and clogging up rivers. The Rivers Trust and United Utilities launch a new campaign this week to highlight the damage caused to the environment by people flushing wet wipes down their loo. The ‘Let your river run’ campaign is using hard-hitting imagery of local rivers littered with wet wipes to show residents of affected areas what’s actually happening on their doorstep. Tony Griffiths, United Utilities’ wastewater network strategy manager, said: “Wet wipes are present in over 90 per cent of sewer blockages. “We’re hoping this campaign will reduce sewer litter at source to avoid us having to put in place a much costlier engineering solution to the issue. “Our message is clear - stop flushing wipes, put them in the bin and protect your local environment. Do this for yourself, your neighbours and the flora and fauna that our rivers support.” The campaign is being delivered by the local network of Rivers Trusts including Mersey Rivers Trust. Customers in areas where local rivers are particularly affected will receive a letter and a follow-up email with information about what not to flush. Local Facebook groups have been asked to share campaign material and leaflets and posters are being distributed to local shops, businesses, sports clubs, libraries, churches, schools and playgroups. A parent pack has also been created which includes leaflets on toilet etiquette for parents of young children, nurseries, playgroups and primary schools and a potty training leaflet. Primary schools are also being given the opportunity to take advantage of special workshops run by Mad Science which has also put together a pack so that teachers can run the session themselves if they wish. Initially, the campaign will focus on the River Roch in Bury and Poise Brook in Stockport and residents of the two towns will be receiving a mailing this week asking them to stop flushing wet wipes. Jayne Mann of The Rivers Trust said: “Take a look at your local river and you’ll probably spot wet wipes scattered along the river bed or even hanging from a tree. “Wet wipes contain plastic, they’re harmful to wildlife, block up our rivers and can cause flooding. It’s time to let your river run. “Combined sewer overflows are a vital protection from flooding so, while we can’t stop them from operating, we can all limit our impact by taking some very simple steps,” she added. ‘Let your river run’ compliments United Utilities’ ‘Think before you flush’ campaign which promotes the three Ps: pee, poo and (toilet) paper, only. The targeted rivers will be cleaned up prior to the start of the campaign then regularly monitored to measure its impact. The water industry has published a minimum standard for flushability. Only wet wipes labelled “Fine to Flush” are kind to our rivers and drains – most wet wipes are not, so if in doubt dispose of them in the bin. Read more about this campaign.
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