Council backs ACCC’s legal challenge against wet wipes manufacturers

MESSY BUSINESS: Sydney Water workers at the Shellharbour sewage pumping station cleaning out a blockage of wet wipes.
MESSY BUSINESS: Sydney Water workers at the Shellharbour sewage pumping station cleaning out a blockage of wet wipes.

The amalgamated council which serves the Boorowa, Harden and Young shires has welcomed the legal action taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) against two manufacturers of ‘flushable’ wet wipes.

The ACCC took action on the grounds that labelling the wipes ‘flushable’ is misleading, as it suggests consumers can safely flush their products down the toilet and assume they will break down. 

The companies coming under fire from the national watchdog are Kimberly-Clark and Pental.

Consumer group Choice also singled out Kimberly-Clark’s Flushable Wipes for Kids, handing it a ‘Shonky Award’ in 2015.

It comes after large clusters of wet wipes had been clogging up sewer pipes across the state for months. 

“Every time there is a blockage in the sewer mains or pump stations, council resources are required to clear it,” Hilltops Council  director of infrastructure Dirk Wymer said.

“Wet wipes clogging our sewers and breaking our pumps is one of the challenges we face in keeping the sewer system operating.”

Manager of Wagga environmental group Erin Earth, Karen Leary, said products which claimed to be ‘flushable’ could be extremely damaging to the environment.

“A lot of the supposedly flushable products might not actually be biodegradable,” she said.

“It’s something not a lot of people are aware of.

“This causes damage to flora and fauna in the local area, not to mention the economic costs associated with unclogging those blockages.”

Ms Leary urged consumers to do their research and purchase environmentally-friendly products.  

“It's really important to use sustainable products,” she said.

“You can get that big build up in the sewer systems due to grease build ups and extra nutrients.”

Ms Leary’s call for a change in consumer behaviour was echoed by Mr Wymer. 

“The next step is to educate consumers to keep wipes out of our pipes,” he said 

“If that blockage occurs on private property, it’s the property owner who has to pay to unblock it.

“Then there’s the risk of raw sewage overflow into neighbouring properties or the environment.”

Flushable wet wipes do not cause major blockages in Wagga’s sewage system, according to Wagga City Council.