A total of 40 tonnes of wipes and sanitary products are wrongly being flushed down the loo in Northampton every week, causing higher water bill rates for consumers.
Anglian Water is campaigning to put an end to misleading “flushable” toilet wipe claims after blockages in its region - the East of England - are causing around £15 million a year to clear up.
The manufacturers of wipes, used for hygiene and cleaning purposes, claim their products can be “flushed” and print this prominently on the packaging, but the water company has argued that these wipes “do not break down like conventional toilet paper.”
Rachel Dyson, Anglian Water’s Keep It Clear programme manager, chaired the UK steering group to get international agreement on the issue with wipes. She said: “Wipes cause real problems in the sewer network and have a devastating impact on customers.
“Wipes are by far the worst culprit but cotton buds, tampons and fats also cause problems in the sewers.
“They result in around 80 per cent of the 30,000 blockages across the East of England each year.
“Most of these blockages are entirely preventable, but instead lead to devastating sewage spills, can harm the environment and cost more than £15 million eachyear to clear.”
As a result, 800 million tonnes of wipes and other sanitary items are being flushed in the East of England alone, causing a fundamental impact on the environment.
Mrs Dyson added: “Ultimately this cost is added onto customers’ water bills and would be better spent elsewhere.
“Even wipes labelled ‘flushable’ or ‘biodegradable’ don’t break up fast enough to make it through the water recycling process.
“This, along with a build-up of fats and greases wrongly put down the sink after cooking, is a rapidly growing problem.”
The campaign for action from wipe manufacturers comes after the recent decision to ban the use of microbeads in cosmetics and cleaning products by 2017.
This week a declaration has been signed in both the UK and in nine other countries worldwide outlining not to falsely label products as “flushable.”
It calls on manufacturers to clearly label their products as non-flushable until an international standard (ISO) has been agreed with water companies.
Sarah Mukherjee, of Water UK, said: “There are strong views from customers and water companies around the world that it is time for the manufacturers to take action to prevent sewer flooding.
“The financial and emotional cost of a sewer flood in your home is awful and surely it is worth taking every step possible to prevent this happening.”