wet wipes blockage

Standards Australia has released the draft DR AS/NZS 5328 Flushable Products, which defines the criteria for material suitable for toilet flushing, for public comment.

The draft outlines appropriate standards and labelling requirements, and will be the first of its kind internationally, where both utilities and manufacturers have come together in its development.

Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) Executive Director, Adam Lovell, said, “The draft standard provides manufacturers with clear specifications and sets out methods for testing whether products are suitable for toilet flushing and compatible with wastewater systems and the environment.

“It has been developed by a technical committee including manufacturers, water utilities, peak bodies and consumer groups, and includes pass/fail criteria.

“Importantly, the new draft standard will help customers identify which products can be flushed with clear labelling.

‘We know wipes and other items that shouldn’t be flushed are an issue for water utilities around the globe, disrupting customer services, creating extra costs for water utilities and customers, and impacting the environment through overflows.”

WSAA and the urban water industry in Australia and New Zealand have been concerned about the contribution of wet wipes products to pipe blockages for some time.

Mr Lovell said, “The issue became even more serious during the COVID-19 pandemic, with our members reporting increases in blockages of between 20 and 60 per cent at the height of the pandemic last year, with people flushing materials never intended to go down the toilet like paper towel and wet wipes.”

Urban Utilities spokesperson Michelle Cull said the draft standard meant Australia was one step closer to reducing the number of wet wipe and fatberg blockages impacting the wastewater network.

“Each year we remove around 120 tonnes of wipes – which is the equivalent of 34 hippos – from our network,” Ms Cull said.

“Most consumers want to do the right thing but without a clear Australian standard on what should be labelled as flushable, they’re being left in the dark.

“The draft standard outlines clear testing criteria for manufacturers and covers the ‘flushability’ of a wide range of disposable products including tampons, paper towels and even kitty litter.

“It’s a real game-changer and will help consumers better understand how they can protect their private household plumbing and our sewer network.”

Coliban Water Managing Director, Damian Wells, welcomed the release of the draft standard.

“This is excellent news and we hope it will provide clarity for manufacturers of flushable wipes,” Mr Wells said.

“This new Standard will benefit not only our communities and the operation of our local wastewater system, but people all over Australia, the environment and the water industry as a whole.”

TasWater Service Delivery General Manager, David Hughes-Owen, said TasWater is pleased a standard has been released and hoped it will lead to clearer guidelines around what not to flush. 

“We hope that once the standard has been finalised, it will help lead to the reduction of items flushed which are not one of the three P’s: pee, poo or toilet paper,” Mr Hughes-Owen said.

WSAA and its members welcome the release of the draft standard and encourage comments through Standards Australia. Comments are open until 1 November 2021. 

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