“We went to a forest to clean up. And it was about 30 square meters with a handful of wipes. Maybe there were about 10,000 wipes. No exaggeration. All through the forest… At that time, we didn't know why it was. All the time with theories, theories and theories... But then we went to the end of the forest and there was a sewer.… I mean, there was no paper, there were wipes and tampons. When you flush them down the toilet, the wipes don't fall apart and look where they end up.” Adriá, Act Now community member.
These words come from an Act Now community member who found a forest full of wet wipes during a clean up. Flushing the wipes down our toilet can have a more harmful effect than we think. They stump pipes, clog up sewage stations and, because of their composition, do not disintegrate instantly in the water like toilet paper, damaging the environment. In addition, they affect our pockets, in case this convinces the stingy ones.
The simple gesture of depositing them in a bin can mean millions saved for society. Every year millions are spent on repairing and maintaining the water supply and sanitation systems in Spain due to the damage caused by these types of products.
According to Canal Isabel II of Madrid, the company in charge of managing the community's water, the improper disposal of this waste leads to more than two million euros in repair costs, only in the Spanish capital. The AEAS (Spanish Association of Water Supply and Sanitation) states that the improper disposal of wet wipes can lead to an 18% increase in maintenance and sanitation costs and specifies that, nationally, the costs amount to 200 million euros.
The wet wipe, also colloquially known as the "Sewer Monster", hinders the proper functioning of the supply systems we use by sticking to walls. However, this problem does not have the wipes as the only protagonist. Incorrect disposal of swabs, tampons, condoms, masks or medicines, among many others, in the toilet is also harmful.
In 2019, the Spanish regulation UNE 149002 was published, a pioneering norm in the world that establishes the criteria for a product to be disposable by the toilet. Manufacturers are required to meet high levels of biodegradability for their products to be placed in the bathroom. Levels to which many wipe manufacturers will have to adapt. It is anticipated that in the future all companies will be required to specify whether or not their product can actually be disposed of by the toilet.
The campaign "Don't feed the monster" made by Basque Country in 2016, describes this reality perfectly. The Basque community accumulated more than 2,400 tons of wet wipes annually. The improper disposal of these products was a great problem for the region, involving an annual cost overrun of one million euros
The problem has been with us for years and will probably remain for a few more until much of the global population is aware and manufacturing becomes more responsible. Let's learn from this. Let's dispose properly. Let's help where we can by collecting waste and make our family and friends aware that it is more serious than it seems.