Mirroring the ghoulish plot of a subterranean horror film, a gruesome discovery was found lurking in UK sewers in 2017…

A monstrous mass of human waste, fat, wet wipes and other non-flushable items – a fatberg – was blocking the sewage system near Whitechapel in London.

This was not the first fatberg - but definitely the heftiest. Weighing the equivalent of 11 London buses, “Fatty McFatberg”, as it was quickly christened, took several weeks and much manpower to shift. 

But what’s this got to do with being a parent?

“Fatty” and other fatbergs grow plump from a diet of unflushable items that are frequently tossed down the loo.

The sewage system is designed for toilet paper, water, poop, and not much else. It is being clogged up with sanitary products, condoms, cotton wool and - one of the main culprits - baby wipes. 

Unlike toilet paper, which disintegrates in a day or so, 90% of baby wipes contain polluting plastic, and many contain wood pulp. This means wipes can remain intact for years, bunging up sewers when flushed. 

More than just a grotesque spectacle, fatbergs can break a sewage system and potentially cause severe disruption. 

What can I do?

You don’t have to ditch baby wipes! Avoid flushing them by remembering Thames Water’s motto – flush only the 3Ps; pee, paper and poo! Or purchase flushable versions of baby wipes. 

In 2019, Water UK launched strict universal standards for flushables. Any wipes that bear the Fine to Flush symbol, like the range offered by Pura, which doesn’t contain plastic and will therefore break down easily, are safe for sewers. So you can rest assured that they are fine to pop down the toilet after you have cleaned your baby.

Wipes that are simply labelled “flushable” don’t confirm to Water UK’s standards and could still be harmful to sewers. 

More to the story?

Away from the bathroom, don’t whizz oils and other cooking fats down the sink. It’s much better to let them solidify and then throw congealed fat in the rubbish bin.

Finally, educate your children on the problem from an early age. Lily and The Wipe Monster, a picture book created and funded by Pura, tells the story of Lily: a smart, caring girl who finds out her family has been flushing plastic wipes down the loo for years and embarks on a mission to make things right - with a little help from a very large and stinky new friend. It’s a fun way to get the message across to children. Pura nappy and wipes subscribers will receive a free copy of the book. Click here for more info…

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