Wet Wipes Face a Wipe-Out in Mallorca

16 March 2020

When marine wildlife eats that plastic, which they quite often do, it just stays in the stomach of the animal and quite often they just die of starvation. Charlotte Coombs of the Marine Conservation Society.

Wet wipes, or baby wipes as many call them because they are great at cleaning a baby's bum, are a blight on the environment.

Mallorca is a part of the solution to an environmental disaster known as “fatbergs.” That colorful name is given to blockages in sewer systems caused by disposables, such as “wet wipes” used for babies and for adult hygiene.

Calvià 2000 has an ongoing educational campaign called "Do not feed the monster” to prevent wet wipes being flushed down the toilet. The campaign is aimed at Mallorca residents including private homes and businesses. It also targets tourists and visitors in homes and hotels, and large-scale users like hospitals, health centers, and social care centers (senior citizens' homes, for instance). Non-compliance is expensive: abusers can pay as much as 10,000€ in fines.

For the floating population and tourists, the English translation, "Don't Feed The Monster," works very well.

Wet Wiper 2

The effort is critical to plastic clean-up efforts. As the BBC reported in early Summer 2018, 93% of blockages in UK sewers are a key element of the infamous fatbergs. The international wastewater community, which consists of 15 countries, including the Netherlands, Turkey, Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom, has given up on working with INDA (Association of Non-woven Fabrics Industry) and its European counterpart, EDANA (European Disposals and Non-woven Association).

They have been working together since 2015, when the International Standards Organization (ISO), a non-government market agency, moved to create an international standard for “flushables.” Banding together, they can prevent INDA and EDANA from continuing to dictate untenable solutions. Looking ahead, innovations in materials may make it possible for some products to meet technical standards for safe disposal.

The president of the municipal services company Calvià 2000, Andreu Serra; the president of EMAYA, Neus Truyol; Joan Sagrera, vice president of SAM (Municipal Services Company of Manacor); and Tomeu Servera, manager of EMSER (Pollença), members of the Public Water Network of Mallorca, have presented several initiatives to combat and publicize the serious problems generated by these products, along with other solid waste that should not be discarded by flushing.

Global Disasters Need Local Solutions. #

According to its yearly report, EMAYA spends more than a quarter million Euros a year dealing with sewage plant issues due to non-flushables. More than 1,000 tons of waste that blocked the Palma sewage network was removed in just one year, at a cost of €400,000. Wet wipes are the most visible component of the problem. Not only are wet-wipes causing costly clogs, chemicals in these products are linked to breast cancer and the packaging contributes to non-biodegradable plastic waste.

A Little Background #

Baby wipes are designed to be durable for heavy-duty cleaning tasks, yet disposable. The fabric is composed of fibers including plastic resins like polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene. The fabric is saturated with a cleaning solution containing both natural and man-made, toxic chemicals that are then introduced into the sanitary water supply. Preservatives, such as methyl and propyl paraben, inhibit microbial growth. Both have been found to stimulate the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells.

We need to keep these chemicals off the body and out of our water supply. Yet, market share is growing, as the convenient wipes are marketed to men and women for adult hygiene. Thermo-formed plastic tubs are most commonly used in packaging. Landfills are full of these containers, placing an added burden on the waste and incineration systems here in Mallorca.

What You Can do #

With COVID-19 requiring everyone to clean hands and surfaces multiple times, are wet wipes an ideal product?

Yes, the disinfecting, anti-bacterial wet wipes can help protect your household from coronaviruses and COVID-19 if they contain 70% alcohol and/or 3% hydrogen peroxide. That is a good thing. The impacts on personal health and safety must be weighed against the devastating effects to the environment.

BUT...and a big one...if you use these wipes over multiple surfaces, you are merely spreading the virus. The wipes work by picking up the virus. That means, one short swipe and not dragging it along the counters and doorknobs. For that, best to use hydrogen peroxide and paper towels. Remember, to dispose of paper towels in garbage can not the toilet.

Personal wet-wipe sales topped $15.8 billion in 2018, the last year of reliable data. Because multi-national corporations are heavily profiting from wet-wipes, look for industry pushback with competing campaigns. Why not start a campaign in your own house, taking extra care when disposing of these products and eliminating them altogether wherever alternatives exist?



#Unflushables #Sewerage #Calvia2000

16 March, 2020


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