Decision shouldn’t change diligence with wet wipes

Media release

15 June 2020

Sydney Water acknowledges the ruling by the Federal Court today to dismiss the appeal by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) in its case against Kimberly-Clark Australia Pty Ltd but reminds Greater Sydney residents to only flush the three P’s down the toilet.

Head of Customer Hub, Darren Cash said “While the decision is disappointing, the fact is that wet wipes and other non-flushable products wreak havoc in our pipes. Even though wet wipes might state that they are flushable on their packaging, the reality is that they don’t breakdown and cause blockages in Sydney Water’s wastewater pipes, and our customers’ plumbing as a result.”

Sydney Water is grateful to the ACCC for its efforts to improve the standard around flushable wipes, particularly given the 22% increase in blockages it’s experienced since COVID-19 put pressure on toilet paper supplies, forcing people into using alternatives.

“Only the three P’s can be flushed down your toilet – pee, poo and (toilet) paper. We ask our customers to remain diligent in putting sanitary products, including wet wipes and facial tissues in the bin, not down the drain,” Mr Cash said.

Wet wipes are be found in about 75% of the blockages Sydney Water has to clear every day.“Wipes continue to be a serious problem for us – and for our customers – causing system chokes and damage to private sewer pipes. One Sydney resident reported a $16,000 plumbing bill to repair the sewer pipes at her home, which were caused by her flushing wet wipes.”

“People would be very surprised to know that facial tissues, although they are made from fine materials, do not breakdown and should not be flushed.”

The cost to Sydney Water of removing the 500 tonnes of flushed wet wipes from the wastewater system is upwards of $8 million every year, and this figure is growing. Sydney Water’s ‘Clean up not down’ campaign asks customers to use a rubbish bin to dispose of wipes or any other bathroom products, rather than flushing them down the toilet.

“We also ask customers not to dispose of fats, oils and greases or any other food scraps and waste down the sink, as these can cause ‘fatbergs’ that not only impact our customers, but can have serious impacts on the environment through sewage overflows.

“Other products like make-up wipes, baby wipes, cleaning wipes, nappies, female sanitary products, condoms, cigarette butts, cotton buds, dental floss, hair and unwanted medication should never be flushed down the toilet, but should be placed in the bin,” he said.