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The Environmental Impact of Toilet Paper and Wet Wipes (And why bidets are the answer)



Wet wipes have gone from obscurity to an ‘en vogue’ parenting choice. Slightly moistened, the wipe can cut through all kinds of mess, great for wiping your child’s bottom after a messy toilet visit. It’s not just children that use them, however. Many adults find wet wipes a ‘more hygienic’ choice over toilet paper and it seems that everyone is doing it. From 2008 to 2013, the sale of “flushable” wet wipes grew by a staggering 23% to $367 million (Bloomberg News).

When it comes to disposal, many consumers invariably flush the wet wipe down the toilet. The wet wipe industry, however, is now in hot water with environmental groups and campaigners. The wet wipe may flush away but further down the line they cause serious problems.

Wet wipes don’t breakdown

Wet wipes are defined as flushable because they disintegrated in what is known as a ‘slosh box test’. This is where a wet wipe will be rocked around in water to see how quickly it breaks down.

But test isn’t true to life, say some campaigners, as the slosh box test is far more turbulent than water flushing down a toilet and sewer pipe hence wet wipes can appear on the sewers, treatment facilities and the ocean intact.

In one independent test, a piece of toilet tissue dissolved in eight seconds, but the wet wipe was still intact half an hour later. There is no legal requirement either, for a wet wipe to be labelled as flushable, with many users assuming that they are, resulting in overflows and sewage backups, as well as clogging expensive machinery at treatment plants.

In one year, $18 million was spent on repairing wet wipe-clogged machinery which according the New York Times was as direct result of ‘the volume of materials extracted from… the city’s wastewater treatment plants [and] has more than doubled since 2008”.

In February 2015 in the city of New York, a bill was introduced to stop the advertising of certain wet wipes as flushable. This bill came alongside a public awareness campaign not to throw the wipes or overload the toil with toilet paper but to place the wipes in the trash instead, something that could present a hygiene problem too.

Toilet paper is not the best solution either

Americans get through 8 million tons of toilet paper each year, with our forests being destroyed to satisfy this demand. By cutting down on the use of toilet paper by just one roll, US households would save 423,900 trees.

Although some toilet tissue manufacturers talked about using trees from a ‘managed or sustainable forest’, this, say campaigners, is not a long-term solution.

The solution?

The solution is one that has been prominent in some countries and cultures for centuries and now Americans need to take a serious look at replacing both toilet tissue and wet wipes with a bidet.

Far healthier and kinder to your derriere, a bidet can reduce the impact of toilet paper and wet wipes on the sewage system, as well as our oceans. A cost-effective addition to your bathroom, you will reduce use of toilet paper by 90% and be hygienic too. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, why not find out more and do your bit to save our forests and waterworks.