'Flushable' wipes should actually be tossed in the trash, study finds
A new study has found that single-use wipes labelled as “flushable” are a growing threat to sewer systems, as well as the environment.
In the study, researchers with Ryerson University said they tested 101 single-use products, such as baby wipes and make-up remover wipes. Among the products, 23 of them were specifically labelled as “flushable” by the manufacturer.
None of the wipes tested were able to move safely through the plumbing and sewer system, the study found.
“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 in a statement.
While toilet paper will fall apart and disintegrate within seconds when submerged in water, single-use wipes do not, the researchers said.
“We are finding that manufacturers are using very strong binders to make these products and we are also finding they are made out of traces of plastic,” said Ryerson engineering student Anum Khan.
Orr told CTV News Toronto that researchers put a wipe labelled as “flushable” in a jar filled with water in 2013.
“It’s still hanging together and we’ve been shaking this thing around,” he said.
The Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group estimates that about $250 million is spent annually removing the wipes from blockages in wastewater equipment and plumbing infrastructure across Canada. The study also found that between 2010 and 2018, the city of Toronto logged about 10,000 calls per year asking officials to deal with sewer blockages related to non-flushable materials.
Ryerson’s study recommends the federal government consider stronger labelling requirements when it comes to the wipes so that people don’t throw them in the toilet.
“We are ok with it if you want to use these wipes,” Orr said. “Just throw them in the garbage and don’t flush them.”
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Pat Foran