The Reason Flushable Wipes Are Causing A Huge Problem Right Now

Cities are begging people not to flush their used flushable wipes which, contrary to their name, are not truly flushable at all. Thanks to the toilet paper shortage, more and more people are using these wipes, which are now causing issues with sewers in cities like Tampa, Florida where contractors recently had to remove 108 cubic yards of grease and wipes. This waste had accumulated into a blockage-causing mass called a fatberg (per the Tampa Bay Times).

While fatbergs existed before the pandemic, the problem is growing and likely to get even worse if we don't change how we dispose of our waste. The city of Richmond, California warned residents that flushing wipes or tossing them down the sink drain could cause a fatberg (via The Mercury News), while Kathy Bentz of Virginia's Prince William Service Authority warned people of the dangers of flushing not just wipes but also oil, fat, and grease.

"The only things you should flush are the three P's. Pee, Poo and Paper," said Bentz in a YouTube video (via the Potomac Local News).

Flushable wipes can wreak havoc

"In theory using the flushable wipes sound like a good idea, but in reality it's actually very harmful to the plumbing system and the environment," said Master Sgt. Destrey Robbins, who serves at California's Beale Air Force Base as section chief of the 9th Civil Engineering Squadron's Water & Fuel Systems. Robbins told Business Insider that the base's pipes have recently become clogged because of flushable wipes.

Flushing your flushable wipes can not just mess up a city's sewer system, but also your own plumbing. "This is taking a toll on our water treatment infrastructure and residents own private property," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said (via Billy Penn). Kenney noted that Philadelphia is seeing 12 times more clogging during the pandemic.

In addition to not washing flushable sanitary wipes — even if the box swears they are flushable — you also shouldn't be flushing your used personal protective equipment (PPE). Gary Chittim, the communications manager for waste removal company Waste Management, told NBC Right Now that face masks and protective gloves should be thrown in the garbage — not flushed or recycled, although he added that cloth masks should be cleaned and saved for future use.