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Flushed wet wipes causing coastline stink

Jason Alexander collecting wet wipes near Ipswich. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A man from Suffolk is waging war on wet wipes after collecting thousands from along our coastline.

Flushing used wet wipes down the loo can be a major problem, either clogging up pipes in our sewage network or ending up on our beaches.

Products claiming to be flushable will, in future, have to pass strict tests set by the water industry body 'Water UK.'

  • Click below for Ashna Hurynag's report

There are around 300,000 sewer blockages a year, costing around £100 million to fix. Water companies say that under no circumstances should any wipe be flushed down the loo.

But if they do get through the system, many of them end up on our coastline.

A pile of wet wipes. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Wildlife photographer Jason Alexander patrols the coastline in Ipswich.

He said: “One of the key spots I love is here along the Strand under the Orwell Bridge and really from the first time I came here I started to notice there were lots and lots of wet wipes.

“There’s other things that are flushed down the loo as well, but it is wet wipes that really grabbed by attention.

“I only really started taking note of the numbers of wet wipes that I’ve collected out over the past eight weeks.

"In this bucket here we’ve only been looking for about 10 minutes or so, but this batch here of probably about 50 or 100, takes me to over 3,000 wet wipes that I collected in this stretch alone.”

Jason Alexander collecting wet wipes in Suffolk. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Now the water industry watchdog is introducing its own independent tests and if the wet wipes pass, we'll see this logo on their packaging.

Rae Stewart, Director, Water UK, said: “The problem we've got at the moment is that the wipes go in and they've perhaps got bits of plastics in them or got other synthetic fibres in them.

“They don't break down when they’re in the sewer so they all catch on snags, they clog together, they build up with fat and grease as well.

"So if a wipe is to be fine to flush, it needs to be able to break down really quite quickly in the sewer system."

The move has been welcomed by environmental organisations and water companies, but until the new regulations are rolled out they say these wipes will continue to cause a stink.