When wet wipes are flushed down the toilet, they cause blockages that can pollute our waterways and cost thousands of dollars to fix.
Even wet wipes labelled as ‘flushable’ or ‘biodegradable’ block pipes and increase the chance of polluting our oceans and beaches.
It’s an elephant-sized problem, but an easy one to fix if we all stop flushing anything other than pee, poo and paper. Read more and help us save our pipes from wipes.
Only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and paper
Dispose of your wet wipes in the bin, not the toilet. (Even better, keep your use of them to a minimum or use a reusable alternative like a face cloth).
Keep a bin by your toilet and in your bathroom.
Preventing wastewater blockages and overflows
‘Flushable’ wet wipes?
Some wet wipes claim to be ‘flushable’ or ‘biodegradable’.
The fact is, these wipes do not break down in our wastewater system. Many users are unaware that wet wipes contain plastic and other synthetic materials, which means they don’t disintegrate like toilet paper.
‘Flushable’ wet wipes lurk in pipes and bind with fat to create rock-hard fatbergs, which cause blockages and wastewater overflows.
We’re working with Water New Zealand to establish a New Zealand flushability standard. An international flushability standard exists but products marketed and sold in New Zealand are not tested to this standard.
It hurts the environment
‘Flushable’ wipes have caused wastewater overflows that have entered our stormwater system, which drains straight to the sea.
Wastewater overflows damage our environment, harm marine life and pose health risks to our community.
They can also force us to close beaches, swimming spots and kai-gathering areas to the public.
It costs a lot of money
Overflows are expensive to clean up and cost ratepayers thousands of dollars every year.
A single overflow alone can cost more than $5000 for investigation, clean-up and follow-up water-quality monitoring.
If a blockage happens on your property in your private pipes, you or your landlord will have to pay for a plumber to fix the problem. That will cost you a lot of money.
What can you do to help?
Help protect our sewers, waterways and beaches by preventing wastewater blockages and overflows.
- Only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and paper.
- Keep a bin by your toilet and in your bathroom to dispose of anything else.
Wet wipes, sanitary items cotton buds, and many other commonly flushed items contain plastic – they don’t disintegrate like toilet paper. Even wet wipes labelled as ‘flushable’ or ‘biodegradable’ block pipes and increase the risk of polluting our oceans and beaches.
Answers to your wet wipes questions
What is Tauranga City Council doing about this?
We’re working with Water New Zealand to establish a New Zealand flushability standard. An international flushability standard (PAS3) exists but products marketed and sold in New Zealand are not tested to this standard.
We have also been in contact with the New Zealand Government, seeking their support to remove misleading labelling on disposable wet wipes that are marketed as ‘flushable’.
Why can't I flush wet wipes?
Wastewater systems are only designed for human waste and toilet paper. Toilet paper is the only material that can break down quickly enough for our wastewater system. ‘Flushable’ wet wipes contain plastic, which doesn’t break down.
Are there any wipes I can flush?
No. Even wet wipes marketed as ‘flushable’ and ‘biodegradable’ do not break down under normal wastewater conditions. In fact, one of the main materials used to make these wipes is plastic.
What is my best choice?
Try not to buy wet wipes, and use a flannel and warm water instead. It will save you money and protect our environment in the long run, with less waste going to landfill. We can all play a small part by making wise decisions.
Last Reviewed: 15/10/2018