When wet wipes are flushed down the toilet, they cause blockages that can pollute our waterways and cost thousands of dollars to fix.
It’s an elephant-sized problem, but an easy one to fix if we all stop flushing anything other than pee, poo and paper. Read more and help us save our pipes from wipes.
Only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and paper
Dispose of your wet wipes in the bin, not the toilet. Even better, keep your use of them to a minimum or use a reusable alternative like a face cloth.
Keep a bin by your toilet and in your bathroom.
Preventing wastewater blockages and overflows
‘Flushable’ wet wipes?
An Australian/New Zealand Flushability Standard was released in May 2022. The standard is voluntary and manufactures can decided to test their product against the standard. The standard provides a testing criteria to ensure wet wipes don’t adversely impact wastewater networks, treatment systems and there is no plastic in the product.
Only products that meet the standard can be labelled as flushable, and it is an offence for a manufacturer to label a product as flushable if it does not meet this standard.
If a product meets the flushability standard an approved flushability logo will be clearly visible on packaging:
Not all products sold in New Zealand meet this standard. If you can’t see the logo or are in doubt, bin the wipes don’t flush them.
It hurts the environment
Wet wipes have caused wastewater overflows that have entered our stormwater system, which drains straight to the sea.
Wastewater overflows damage our environment, harm marine life and pose health risks to our community.
They can also force us to close beaches, swimming spots and kai-gathering areas to the public.
Wastewater overflow brochure (710kb pdf)
It costs a lot of money
Overflows are expensive to clean up and cost ratepayers thousands of dollars every year.
A single overflow alone can cost more than $5000 for investigation, clean-up and follow-up water-quality monitoring.
If a blockage happens on your property in your private pipes, you or your landlord will have to pay for a plumber to fix the problem. That will cost you a lot of money.
Truth about wet wipes (3.75mb pdf)
What can you do to help?
Help protect our sewers, waterways and beaches by preventing wastewater blockages and overflows.
- Only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and paper.
- Keep a bin by your toilet and in your bathroom to dispose of anything else.
Wet wipes, sanitary items cotton buds, and many other commonly flushed items contain plastic – they don’t disintegrate like toilet paper.
Answers to your wet wipes questions
What is Tauranga City Council doing about this?
We’re working with Water New Zealand to establish a New Zealand flushability standard. An Australian/New Zealand standard (AS/NZS 5328) is currently out for consultation and is due to be published mid-2022. Once the standard has been adopted all products sold in New Zealand will need to be tested against the standard before 'flushability' claims can be included on packaging.
Why can't I flush wet wipes?
Wastewater systems are only designed for human waste and toilet paper. Toilet paper is the only material that can break down quickly enough for our wastewater system. Most wet wipes contain plastic, which doesn’t break down.
Are there any wipes I can flush?
There may be a few products that meet current flushability standards. We ask users to carefully read packaging and think before they flush. Flushable products will have a clearly identifiable symbol on the packaging. If it does not have this symbol, it does not meet the flushability standards and should be put in the rubbish bin rather than the toilet.
If you see one of these symbols on your packaging, it indicates the product meets the flushability standard and is safe to flush.
What is my best choice?
Try not to buy wet wipes, and use a flannel and warm water instead. It will save you money and protect our environment in the long run, with less waste going to landfill. We can all play a small part by making wise decisions.