Conservation Minnesota

Turns Out “Flushable” Wipes Aren’t So Flushable

If there’s one thing we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about, it’s were all our wastewater goes after we flush our toilets. After all, who wants to spend their time think about that stuff? But while we might not like to spend our time thinking about all the wastewater we create, dealing with it is an important function of local government all over the state. Just ask anyone whose ever had a septic system back up.

Unfortunately, more and more cities in the west metro have to deal with the problem of flushable wipe products clogging up pipes and wastewater treatment plants. There are many different kinds of these wipe products that are made by a variety of manufactures and they are now marketed for use for everything from scrubbing dirty sinks to removing makeup. But there’s one catch, many of the products are actually made with plastic. In fact as The Star Tribune noted in a recent article on this problem, some wipes are as much as 30 percent non-biodegradable plastic.

The result is pretty gross: these wipe products don’t break down after you flush them down the toilet, instead they build up in big wads that can clog up your own or your cities’ sewer pipes or waste water treatment plants. The end result is workers have to go and unclog pipe and equipment, which is costing Minnesota cities tens of thousands of dollars in annual repair and maintenance costs. These costs have grown so much that the city of Wyoming, Minnesota has taken six manufactures of these wipe products to court claiming that flushable wipes have clogged the city’s pipes and forced costly repairs.

All of this and more is why Conservation Minnesota is pushing for new laws that require that these products be labeled as unsafe for septic and sewer systems. Simply put you can’t flush plastic wipes down toilet without causing problems somewhere else down the line. Which is why it makes sense for manufactures to stop labeling their products as being safe for sewer systems when they clearly cause damage.

About John Anderson

John Anderson
John Anderson has a name that screams Minnesotan (despite the fact that he was born in Berkley, California). His resume includes a stint as a census worker that allowed him to learn a great deal about the way people choose to interact with the government. Anderson serves as Community Coordinator in the west metro. In this role he works with community leaders and people who want to protect Minnesota’s Great Outdoors throughout the region. A 2006 graduate of Northwestern University, a day spent riding his bike in Minnehaha Park is his version of perfection, while eating Brussels sprouts is a form of torture he actively avoids. (And I, for one don’t get this. Brussels sprouts are AWESOME. Now, if he had said Lima Beans…
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