MPs have this week heard how communities in our region have embraced the Northumbrian Water campaign to such a degree that the number of wipes found in their local sewers has fallen by as much as 91% in some areas.
A special briefing was held at the Houses of Parliament on Monday night, where Water UK, the industry body representing water companies across the country, outlined plans for a national Bin the Wipe campaign, starting in early 2023, inspired by the success of the North East initiative. The reception was hosted by Fleur Anderson MP.
Northumbrian Water started the regional campaign at the beginning of 2020, after finding wipes in 64% of the 15,600 sewer blockages its teams cleared in 2019.
Since then, the campaign has visited “hot spots” across the North East, where analysis of blockages have shown high volumes of wipes in the pipes. The excellent response in some of these areas has seen Northumbrian Water expanding Bin the Wipe into more areas than ever before in 2022, as it looks to continue reducing the numbers of blockages in its sewer network and the risk of sewer flooding these cause, and this will continue in 2023 and beyond.
Bin the Wipe brings together education on the problems caused in the sewers by wipes and on-the-ground activity by sewer workers which allows for wipes flushers to be identified and face to face conversations to take place.
Wipes do not break down in the sewer the way toilet roll does, and they settle or snag in pipes, causing or adding to blockages that can force waste to back up into homes or out into the environment.
The campaign asks that wipes are not flushed down the toilet, but are instead disposed of in the bin.
Heidi Mottram, who spoke at the Westminster event, said: “The communities where we have taken Bin the Wipe have responded so well to the campaign, making a simple change to their behaviour based upon an improved understanding of the problems that flushing wipes can cause, that it has inspired other water companies across the country to embrace the message as part of their own efforts to reduce blockages. We have seen a 50% reduction in blockages in the areas where we have taken Bin the Wipe, which is fantastic.
“Bin the Wipe is effective because it is such a simple message and an even simpler response is required – and has been delivered – by customers in the areas where we have taken the campaign so far. It would be fantastic to see people across the country following the North East’s lead and making that easy change to help protect their communities and their environment by simply putting wipes in the bin, not down the loo. We continue to ask all customers to please continue to Bin the Wipe and not put wipes down the toilet.”
Christine McGourty, Chief Executive of Water UK, said: “We were delighted to be able to give MPs a sneak peak of our upcoming ‘Bin The Wipe’ campaign. It is great to have the support of Fleur Anderson who has led the way with her work to make wipes without plastic.
“Flushing wet wipes down the toilet causes huge problems in our sewers, causing homes and businesses to flood and damage our natural environment. We hope the campaign will inform the public on the damage caused by flushing wet wipes and encourage everyone to play their part and always ‘Bin the Wipe’.”
Liz Twist MP said: “Here in the North East, we have seen the difference that Northumbrian Water’s Bin the Wipe campaign has made, reducing the number of wipes being flushed and, vitally, the number of blockages and resulting incidents of sewer flooding that this causes. I’ve championed this campaign in Parliament and I am proud of our region for having led the way with an initiative that can really benefit communities and the environment across the country.”
A full launch of the national campaign is being planned for the New Year.