The disposable wipes you use for personal care, changing diapers, cleaning your home, or wet mopping may be labeled “flushable.” And it’s true that they will usually go down your toilet when flushed. But unlike toilet paper, they don’t break down. In many cases, wipes are made with the same man-made fibers — such as polyester, polypropylene, and rayon — that go into clothing and other fabrics.
Wipes snag on any imperfection in sewer pipes, catch passing debris and grease, and create a “ball” that will grow to plug the pipe. This can cause sewer backups in your home’s or your community’s pipes, creating expensive and messy problems.
Wipes can also get drawn into sewer-line and wastewater treatment plant pumps and clog and damage them. Municipalities must manually clear out pumps or remove clogs, and sometimes have gone to the expense of replacing or upgrading equipment to deal with wipes-related issues. Besides creating unpleasant problems for wastewater workers, wipes clogs are expensive to address and becoming much more frequent. Those expenses will eventually be passed on to community residents in the form of higher fees or taxes.
Wastewater treatment is critical to protecting the environment in Minnesota, particularly water quality. Flushing wipes can cause problems that divert wastewater resources and weaken environmental protection. If you must use wipes, put them in the trash!