Study finds ‘flushable’ wipes not safe to flush
A new study from Ryerson University has shown that of the 101 single-use wipes it tested, including 23 labelled as flushable by the manufacturer, none were in fact safe to dispose of down the toilet.
The report, produced by Ryerson’s Flushability Lab at Ryerson Urban Water and entitled “Defining ‘Flushability’ for Sewer Use, is the first test of single-use wipes against rigorous criteria for flushability.
Results showed that not one single wipe was able to fall apart or disperse safely through the sewer system test, which can negatively impact household plumbing, municipal sewage infrastructure, and consequently, the environment.
”This research confirms conclusively what those of us in the industry already knew ― that single-use wipes, including cleansing and diaper wipes, cannot be safely flushed, even those labelled as ‘flushable’,” said report lead Barry Orr, masters student in Environmental Applied Science and Management and a 25-year veteran sewer outreach and control inspector with the City of London.
”Manufacturers need to be regulated to properly label products, so that residents can make informed decisions that can save money, protect infrastructure and the environment by properly disposing of wipes in the garbage.”
To test the flushability of the samples, the researchers created a working model of the average home’s lavatory system from toilet to sewer, including the bends and slope, plus average water pressure typical of urban infrastructure. Each wipe was then tested to the wastewater industry’s specifications for toilet and drainline clearance plus disintegration. The report findings showed that all the wipes risked clogging or causing damage to infrastructure.
From 2010 to 2018 the Toronto logged nearly 10,000 calls per year from residences due to “sewer service line-blocks” relating to factors such as disposal of non-flushable materials down household toilets. Across Canada, an estimated $250 million is spent annually to remove blockages from equipment, due to the flushing of wipes and other non-flushable materials.
Many of these wipes also contain synthetic fibres, including plastics, which can make their way into waterways, harming water systems and wildlife.