The key aim to generate a step change in the amount of sewer flooding incidents by targeting customer behaviour.
Bin the Wipe was launched in 2020 to replace our 3Ps (only paper, pee and poo should go down the loo) approach, which is commonplace across the industry. It turns the message and focus towards wipes. If we can reduce or even remove wipes from our network, we can massively drive down blockages. In 2019, 64% of the 15,600 blockages we cleared from our network contained wipes, which do not break up and can snag or settle in pipes and cause build-ups.
The Bin the Wipe message is a simple one for customers to understand and needs only an easy change to their behaviour to make a big difference, if enough customers play their part.
The campaign uses innovative tools to track wrongly flushed items back to the homes they came from and helps customers to understand that flushing wipes can cause sewer flooding in homes and damage to the environment, such as rivers and beaches.
Our Bin the Wipe team focuses on hot spot areas and works in an area for three months, clearing blockages and identifying where wipes have been flushed. As the search narrows to streets - and even to individual properties - we continue to encourage people to stop flushing wipes through direct conversations and, where necessary, letters.
Those who continue to flush wipes are warned of our ability to charge them for the cost of clearing blockages - and even, in extreme circumstances, prosecute them for offences under the Water Industry Act 1991.
Bin the Wipe has so far focused on areas of Teesside, where flushing wipes was a known problem. This has reduced the number wipes found in the sewer network by more than 60%, without the need for us to charge or prosecute any customers.
Simon Cyhanko, Head of Wastewater Networks, said: “Wipes that have been flushed down the loo are the biggest cause of blockages in our sewers, which threatens people’s homes, businesses and the environment with flooding.
“When a sewer gets blocked, all the waste people flush away is stopped in its tracks and can only go either back to where it came from or out into the environment. That’s the worst thing that can happen to a customer in relation to our network, so we want to stop such unnecessary problems at their root cause.
“Even wipes that come in packages claiming they’re ‘flushable’ can cause problems. Because they don’t break down like loo roll, they can start or contribute to blockages.
“We can use our team’s specially created tools to trace flushed wipes directly back to homes, and we can take action against people who keep flushing them. However, we’ve found that customers are generally willing to make that simple change in their behaviour once they understand the consequences, in the areas we’ve taken Bin the Wipe to already.
“It’s a simple change to make that costs nothing. All we ask is that people stop using their toilets as bins and Bin the Wipe.”