The Facts

  • As well as coming in plastic packaging, 90% of wet wipes contain some form of plastic.
  • Flushing wipes down the toilet, even those labelled “flushable”, is the leading cause of blockages & fatbergs in our sewage systems. As a result, Irish Water have to clear 2,000 blockages every month.
  • Plastic from wet wipes doesn’t go away- it breaks down into tiny microplastics. This results in plastic pollution in our oceans, waterways, even ending up in our food chains.
  • Wipes are one of the most commonly found items by our Clean Coasts groups while doing beach cleans.

The Impact of Flushing

  • Wet wipes will flush, as in they will disappear down the U-bend of your toilet. The problem is what happens next.
  • Wipes enter the sewer system, which is not designed to process them, even the wipes that are labelled “flushable”. Wipes don’t break down like toilet paper does. Ragging is the name given to the clogging or damage caused to pumps by fibrous materials such as wet wipes.
  • These blockages, combined with heavy rainfall, can lead to sewer overflows in our communities, as well as plastic pollution on our beaches and in the ocean.
  • This is important in the context of climate change, as we’re likely to see increased heavy rainfall and flooding in coming years.

Microplastics

  • Microplastics are tiny plastic particles, less than 5mm in size.
  • There are an estimated 4.85 trillion microplastic particles in our oceans worldwide.
  • The presence of microplastics in the environment inevitably leads to human exposure to these particles. Microplastics have been detected in shellfish, fish, drinking water, table salt, honey, beer, fruit and vegetables, and chicken.
  • An NUI Galway study of wipes washed up on Irish beaches found that 50% of wipes labelled “flushable” contained microplastics. It also found that 50% of these wipes were not biodegradable.

Comedian Bernard Casey Reminds Us to Think Before You Flush

What Can I Do?

  • Only ever flush the 3 P’s – Pee, Poo and Paper
  • One small but beneficial action you can take is placing a waste bin in your bathroom in your home or business.
  • You can download some of our Think Before You Flush resources and stick them up as a reminder.
  • You can also reduce your reliance on single-use plastics like wipes by switching to reusable options. If you use wipes to clean your face, you can switch to reusable facial cloths, and for a zero-waste option you can make your very own DIY makeup remover [or toner] too.