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  1. ITV Report

Flushed wipes costing millions in blockages - says water company

A water company has accused baby wipe manufacturers of misleading customers and costing them millions of pounds each year as they try to clear blockages caused by flushed wipes - many of which are marketed as "flushable".

Wessex Water says these wipes don't break down in the sewage system - in the last year they've been called out to clear over 13,000 blockages. They say research suggests around a quarter of these are labelled as "flushable" wipes.

Andrew Cotterell is a sewerage engineer - we filmed with him as he tried to tackle yet another blockage:

Wessex Water argues that so-called flushable wipes don't break down any more than non-flushable ones - and they've got an experiment which they say proves it:

Whereas toilet paper breaks down quickly when shaken in water (left) the company says wipes (right) stay intact. Credit: ITV News

If the wipes don't block your pipes or the network pipes, they end up at the sewerage treatment plant:

This pile is six months worth of non-biodegradable products Credit: ITV News
Wipes have to be fished out of raw sewage Credit: ITV News

What can be flushed down the toilet?

Most people know not to try to flush nappies or sanitary towels, but go ahead with wipes labelled as "flushable".

Loo roll can be safely flushed - but other products may block your pipes or the network sewerage system. Credit: ITV News
But would you flush these? They have been labelled Credit: ITV News

ITV News asked the manufacturers why they use the word "flushable" - those who replied said that their wipes comply with the wipes industry's flushability protocol.

Wessex Water claims that no UK sewerage companies recognise this protocol, and that they have their own flushability standards.