Flushable cleaning wipes cause sewer blockages

"Flushable" Wipes - To flush or not to flush?

Despite a recent Federal Court ruling, stating that a brand of wet wipes manufactured by Kleenex are suitable for flushing, experienced drainage professionals, engineers and water authorities disagree.

Cottonelle Wipes

A case was dismissed on Friday by Justice Gleeson who threw out the case by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against Kimberly-Clark Australia, who make Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths.  The ACCC were ordered to pay costs.

Justice Gleeson said despite millions of flushable wipes being sold, there was no evidence from any consumer or plumber of a household system blockage caused by these wipes and that rate of consumer complaints was so small as to be insignificant. 

Here at Nuflow, we do not agree with this at all, we see so many blockages caused by these wipes that we even have an invoice template for this kind of blockage already made up ready to go, and it's not only flushable cleaning wipes that cause problems with blockages in sewer drains, baby wipes, paper hand towels and Paper kitchen towels can also be more than your drainage system can handle.

Sam Foss, owner of Nuflow Wide Bay explains the situation.
"Flushing these cleaning wipes down the loo will not cause any physical damage to your piping system, but because they don't break down easily it only takes a minor imperfection in the pipe such as a burr on a joint or a very slight misalignment for a wipe to get caught up" he said.
"Once one wipe has got caught on something it then makes a bigger target for each successive wipe until there are enough there to cause a complete blockage."

After the ACCC alleged that the wipes advertised as "Flushable"  had breached Australian consumer law by stating that they were flushable when they were not because they do not break down like toilet paper does as it tumbles along the sewer drain.

Justice Gleeson said that she was not convinced that these wipes were unsuitable for flushing down the toilet, and as such, the manufacturer's claims did not breach consumer law because they were neither false nor misleading.

The ruling is a major blow for consumer groups, such as Choice, water utilities and environmental groups.

Speaking outside of the Federal Court, Peter Hadfield, a Sydney Water spokesperson, said it would continue to campaign against the use of these wipes.

He said, "The only things that should be flushed down the toilet were the "three Ps" - poo, pee and paper"

Peter was concerned that the ruling would negate the improvements since the utility launched its campaign to "Keep Wipes out of Pipes".

The ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said the commission will be seeking legal advice on whether it could lodge an appeal against the decision.

The Federal Court  decision looked only at the evidence on whether the Kleenex wipes caused harm, While Mr Sims said it was impossible to determine which brand of wipes caused these blockages.

Mr Sims said the real question should be: "Are they flushable? Do they break down like toilet paper? They don't."

Water authorities across Australia have been pushing for the introduction of a voluntary standard describing what is acceptable be flushed down toilets.

Kimberly-Clark Australia's managing director Doug Cunningham welcomed the decision from the Federal Court stating "We know that our flushable wipes are suitable to be flushed and this has now been confirmed by the Federal Court of Australia"

The Federal Court last year ruled for the ACCC on a similar case.
Pental Ltd and Pental Products who manufacture White King "flushable" toilet and bathroom cleaning wipes were penalised $700,000 for making false and misleading representations about their product.

The wipes were brought to attention by Consumer group Choice, in 2015, when it awarded flushable wipes its Shonky Award.

testing wipes for durability

Sarah Agar, who is head of campaigns and policy at Choice, said the Federal Court decision was "terrible news for people who care about the environment and our waterways".

It meant that flushable wipe companies would not be held to account for clogged sewers, damaged waterways and "terrible plumbing bills for Australians".
"Choice’s message is do not flush," she said.

Water utilities have been campaigning to reduce the use of these wipes, which they argue cause massive blockages, costing Australian utilities about $15 million a year.

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