THERE is simply no such thing as a flushable wipe.
It might seem like an easy or hygienic solution however MidCoast Water is warning residents that 'flushable' wipes really shouldn't be going down the toilet at all.
Wipes whether they be baby wipes, facial wipes, cleaning wipes or the increasingly popular personal wipes have the potential to create huge problems in sewer systems, according to the water and sewer authority.
Environmental scientist with MidCoast Water, Linda Brook Franklin, will be presenting at the Department of Primary Industries Water's trade waste update in Sydney next week on the escalating problem of so-called 'flushable' wipes.
Linda's presentation will be followed by an update on the national perspective and group discussion as it is an issue affecting water utilities across the western world.
"The 'flushable' label simply means they will go down your toilet when flushed. What you need to be concerned about is what happens next," Linda explained.
"Unlike toilet paper, wipes do not disintegrate in water. They stay pretty much intact as they travel through the sewer pipes and can get caught on roots or other debris.
"This increases the likelihood of a blockage in the sewer pipes which can cause costly damage to pumps or lead to sewer overflows which have the potential to impact on the environment."
MidCoast Water crews have already dealt with several significant and costly blockages in their sewer systems as a result of the use of wipes.
The clear message from MidCoast Water is only human waste and toilet paper goes down the toilet. Flushing wipes even those marked 'flushable' can cause blockages both in a home's internal pipework and on a large scale in the sewer network.
"Wipes just do not disintegrate like normal toilet paper does and that is the big issue," Linda said.
"They can clog on private property, or in our pumping stations and then cause expensive problems at our sewage treatment plants."
Research shows the use of wet wipes is on the rise and it may be a surprise to find men aged 18-35 are the most frequent users.
Linda will be addressing the conference on the problems wipes are presenting as well as the national approach that is being co-ordinated by the Water Services Association of Australia and involving the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Accord.
This co-ordinated approach will see the message 'human waste and toilet paper are the only things that should be flushed down a toilet' become a standard message across the country. The Water Services Association of Australia is also pushing for clearer messaging and labelling on wipes.
The use of wet wipes is causing problems all over the world, with New York City spending $18 million in five years unclogging 'flushable' wet wipes from their sewer system.
In London last year a 'fatberg' was removed that was the size of a double decker bus. Wipes were a contributing factor to the development of the congealed material.