Wet wipes are destroying our country’s sewage system

For the past few years, New York City has been besieged by an evil menace known as wet wipes, but city officials are finally ready to take action against the seemingly unstoppable foe.

A bill has been introduced by the City Council that would cut down on the number of wet wipes that would be allowed to advertise themselves as “flushable.” Because wet wipes, the moist towelettes of the butt, don’t break down as easily as standard toilet paper, they tend to cause problems as they make their way through the sewage system. Mainly, they just sort of clump together with other waste and cause huge disgusting blockages.

There are many wastewater authorities who take issue with the industry standard “slosh box test” in which wipes are put into a box of water and then rocked back and forth to see how well they disntegrate. (Side note: slosh box will probably soon be a common euphemism for female genitalia.) Apparently the test doesn’t accurately simulate sewage system conditions, putting more stress on the wipes then the average journey through our waste carrying pipes would.

This hasn’t been a huge problem until fairly recently, as overall usage of wet wipes has increased greatly over the past few years. As The New York Times pointed out:

The city has spent more than $18 million in the past five years on wipe-related equipment problems, officials said. The volume of materials extracted from screening machines at the city’s wastewater treatment plants has more than doubled since 2008, an increase attributed largely to the wipes.

We should have seen this coming, because as George Costanza once presciently noted, toilet paper technology really hasn’t changed all that much over the course of human history. Clearly, we’ve been using outdated technology, so why wouldn’t we upgrade to the more comfortable and gentle touch of the wet wipe? It’s just common sense.

What are we to do about the damage being done to our sewers though? Well, New York City officials believe they can combat the issue by informing people of the proper way to dispose of the wipes, which essentially amounts to throwing them in the trash. Since only about 6% of all wipes are labelled as flushable anyway, most of the damage is being done by massive amounts of wet wipes that were never meant to be flushed in the first place.

This is not simply a New York problem though. Many cities throughout the United States have been dealing with similar issues, and back in 2013, a fifteen-ton glob of wet wipes and waste, dubbed the fatberg, was pulled out of the London sewers.

If you’re thinking of swearing off the wipes but are wondering how to keep your rear squeaky clean, Dr. Oz has some wonderful advice for you. Just use some regular toilet paper that’s already wet. Wait, what? What is wrong with that guy? That sounds disgusting. Would that even work? Wouldn’t the toilet paper just break apart in your hands? Gross. Do not do that, or anything else Dr. Oz tells you to do, for that matter.

[NYT]