Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
Features

Adults more likely to flush wet wipes causing unnecessary strain on sewage system, Govt says

Flushing wet wipes down the toilet is causing unnecessary strain to the Rock’s infrastructure, the Gibraltar Government said as it unveiled children are better at understanding its impact than adults.

Sewers around the world are being blocked on a regular basis with items such as wet wipes, fats, and other items that are not the ‘three Ps’, pee, poo and (toilet) paper.

Gibraltar has also run campaigns advising people on the harm flushing other items down the toilet could cause to the sewage system.

“It seems that it is them [the children] rather than their parents who seem to have understood the message,” a Government spokesman said.

“We have even had parents approach and tell us of occasions where they have been scolded by their children for disposing of items incorrectly.”

“We hope to return to the schools once the pandemic has passed to continue our education at a grassroots level, to change behaviours early on so they become second nature.”

“We are looking at this as a long term project as whilst there has been some improvement, or rather an increase of awareness, we still encounter issues. We are hopeful and optimistic that through education the behaviour of future generations will improve to a point where we face a fraction of the problems we face today.”

In January 2019 the Gibraltar Government stated it was working on a sustained campaign to prevent the increasing number of items such as wet wipes that are being flushed down toilets and blocking drains.

“These materials are the root cause of almost all blockages encountered locally, blockages which could be avoided if these products were disposed of appropriately,” a government spokesman told the Chronicle at the time.

A UK report has indicated that a fifth of people flush wet wipes down the toilet.

A water company in the UK recently ran a month long ‘Unblocktober’ campaign in a bid to reduce the amount of foreign objects being flushed down the toilet as well as fat poured down the drain.

In 2014, the Gibraltar Government announced a six-year campaign to improve the sewage system in Gibraltar at a cost of around £8m. The following year it launched a campaign aimed at preventing further damage to the Rock’s sewage system by asking people only to flush “paper, pee and poo” down.

A Government spokesperson told the Chronicle that since running the initial campaign there has been a increase in awareness over this subject by the public and from its general interactions it seems to be a topic of concern which is raised more and more frequently.

“Having said that, we still encounter a large amount of items which should not be flushed down the toilet,” they said.

“These include food, oils, hand towels, wipes, sanitary products, rags and on occasion even items of clothing.”

“Whilst the message seems to have been put across there is still strong evidence that a percentage of the population ignores it.”

The ignoring of such advice put the Rock’s infrastructure under strain and causes issues where issues should not exist, the spokesman said.

The Government advises that items such as baby wipes, sanitary products and nappies should be bagged if necessary and placed in a bin.

Items such as cooking oil and paint should be disposed of safely and correctly via Government facilities.

Large volume of wipes, rags and paper hand towels cause the majority of the problems as these are items, which do not break down once flushed.