Look what’s lurking in Sydney’s sewers

What weighs 500 tonnes, causes flooding and damage to pipes, and is lurking in Sydney’s sewers?

A recent report from Sydney Water has found that around 500 tonnes of wet wipes are removed from sewers each year, requiring hundreds of hours of labour to manually clear out the refuse before it causes overflows into homes or creeks.

Sydney Water says that the issue has "increased dramatically" in the last two years.

But it's not just a problem in Sydney: all Australian water utilities are facing the same problem, as well as systems in other cities such as New York and London.

Image: Sydney Water

It seems it's about time that we shed some light on this issue and spread the word about how these wipes are causing chaos for cities around the world.

Wet Wipes Mythbusting

Myth: "It's not really a big problem"

Fact: One in four people in Sydney are flushing wet wipes down the toilet. Not only that, but 75% of all sewer blockages involve wet wipes!

Myth: "It doesn't really affect me"

Fact: A blockage caused by flushed wet wipes could cost you $1,000 to fix in plumbing bills. Even if you're not that fussed about the planet, your hip pocket will suffer if you keep flushing those wipes!

Image: Daily Telegraph

Myth: "Wet wipes are biodegradable"

Fact: Wipes don't break down in the wastewater system like toilet paper and can lead to blockages in pipes and the sewer. Sydney Water found that over 70% of people didn't realise that wipes are non-biodegradable, leading to the ongoing issue of wipes going down the drain.

Myth: "Flushable wet wipes are fine"

Fact: According to Midcoast Water, "The 'flushable' label simply means they will go down your toilet when flushed". Sydney Water has this to say on the subject of 'flushable' wet wipes: "They can combine with fats, oils and other things that shouldn't be flushed to form big, congealed clumps – or 'fatbergs' – in the sewer."

Image: Daily Telegraph

Myth: "It's just a problem for people that flush wipes. I don't, so it doesn't impact me"

Fact: Sydney Water estimates that flushed wet wipes are costing our community $8 million every year, a figure that is growing by the month. Wet wipes also increase the risk of pipe breaks and then overflows to our local creeks and rivers. This can cause issues for local plant and animal life, as their habitat is polluted or damaged by changed conditions.

Image: Daily Telegraph

What you can do

  • Only flush human waste and toilet paper
  • Never flush nappies, tissues, pads, tampons, wipes (even if they claim to be "flushable"!), cotton buds, dental floss, fats and oils and rags.

Banner image: The NY Post

What you can do

Do shopper research on carbon footprint before you buy

CO2 pollution is embedded in everything we buy. By looking for Australian-made products, credible environmental claims, and minimal and recyclable packaging, we can minimise pollution.

629 Tonnes of CO2
savings pledged
Pledge to do this

Steph Newman Former Social Media Assistant Suggest an article Send us an email

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