High street chain Holland & Barrett has announced that from July it will no longer sell wet wipes across its 800 stores in the UK and Ireland, which could help reduce the number of fatbergs the water industry has to tackle.
The announcement comes in response to the growing problem of people flushing products which are not biodegradable. These include wet wipes, nappies, and sanitary products.
As well as these products, many still pour fat grease, and oil down their drains, which combine with non-biodegradable products and congeal in sewers, creating fatbergs that block pipes and require intensive operations to remove.
There are approximately 300,000 sewer blockages annually, costing the industry £100 million to clear.
The 130-tonne Whitechapel fatberg stands as the most infamous occurrence to date. In February a 90-tonne fatberg was discovered under Liverpool, while Devon’s largest fatberg was found by South West Water at the start of the year.
The water industry has made a considerable effort toward public education of what can and cannot be flushed or poured down drains. Recently, Water UK and the Water Resource Centre (WRC) launched a “fine to flush” symbol and Yorkshire Water launched a campaign to get customers to pledge to stop flushing wipes.
At this year’s wet wipe count organised by Thames21, a record 23,000 wipes, 473 bin bags worth, were counted and removed from a badly affected stretch of the Thames in Barnes, West London. The results equal 201 wet wipes for every square metre of the bank.
Holland & Barrett will replace the offending products with environmentally friendly alternatives such as double-sided cotton cloths, unbleached cotton muslin cloths, cotton pads and an exfoliating mitt.
The company had been stocking products featuring the “fine to flush” symbol, but said the measure was not effective as it was not mandatory.
Earlier this month the word fatberg was added to the Scrabble dictionary.