Ban the wipes? Wet wipes causing increasing problems

Ban the wipes? Wet wipes causing increasing problems
Photo credit: Getty

The Associate Minister for the Environment is encouraging people to flush nothing but "pee, poo and paper" down the loo, as blockages caused by the flushing of wet wipes becomes an "expensive and increasing" problem.

Wet wipes are also causing huge - and disgusting - problems in the United Kingdom, where they are blamed for causing 93 percent of blocked sewerage pipes.

More than 5000 of the little white things were recovered from just 116m2 of the Thames River.

That problem could be eliminated as the UK government considers a ban on single-use plastics like straws, cotton swabs and wet wipes within 25 years. Under the ban, manufacturers will have to make such products biodegradable if they want to keep selling them in the United Kingdom.

Eugenie Sage, the Associate Minister for the Environment, didn't commit to eliminating single-use wet wipes but said she's keeping "a close watch" on what's happening the UK.

"As Wellington Water says, the only thing people should flush down the loo is 'pee, poo and paper (toilet paper that is)'," she told Newshub.

"Wet wipes are an absolute headache because they can block pipes and help cause fatbergs, and block screens in wastewater pipes."

Ms Sage encouraged manufacturers to think about the design of their products to make sure they can be reused, recycled or composted.

"In the case of wet wipes, these would need to be fully biodegradable, like toilet paper, in a sewerage system," she said.

"Consumers can think about the impacts of convenience products like wet wipes. At the very least they need to go in the bin after use, not down the toilet. Re-useable cloth flannels are a better option."

National's environment spokesperson Scott Simpson agreed the wet wipe boom and subsequent piping bust is a problem.

He said single-use plastic will become "the biggest consumer rights issue to confront us in the next few years."

However Mr Simpson wasn't a fan of a complete immediate ban.

"My preference would be for voluntary action, but if voluntary action doesn't achieve the results that we as a democratic society want in terms of our natural resources and disposability of rubbish... then potentially there are some options for Governments to use regulations," he said.

"My concern is that should not be heavy-handed because sometimes you get perverse outcomes."

Ms Sage is expected to make an announcement on the future of single-use plastics in New Zealand later this year.