Back in September 2015 we here at Whywait Plumbing first alerted our clients in newsletters and blogs to the fact that flushable wipes were in fact not flushable. At the time we said flushable wipes are an environmental nightmare and we stand by that claim.
We have repeated over and over again that the only things that are flushable in your toilet are toilet paper, urine and faeces or if you like to adhere to the three P’s rule of pee, poo and paper.
But as we all know a multitude of products labelled as flushable wipes or wet wipes have been claimed by their manufacturers that they could be simply disposed of by flushing down the toilet.
Last Thursday the first of the ACCC prosecutions against manufacturers Pental and Kimberly-Clark Australia had a positive result in the Federal Court of Australia.
The manufacturer of White Kings flushable toilet and bathroom cleaning wipes Pental Limited and Pental Products Pty Ltd was fined $700,000 for its continual false and misleading claims that their products disintegrated “just like toilet paper” in the sewage system. The ACCC has separate ongoing proceedings against Kimberly-Clark Australia.
White Kings products in labelling, packaging and promotional materials included the following misleading statements:
- White King Toilet Wipes are made from a specially designed material, which will disintegrate in the sewage system when flushed, just like toilet paper
- Simply wipe over the hard surface of the toilet … and just flush away
The Federal Court ruled all these statements were, in fact, false with ACCC Commissioner, Sarah Court stating, “These White King wipes can’t be flushed down the toilet, and Australian wastewater authorities face significant problems if they are because they can cause blockages in household and municipal sewerage systems.”
This is a huge win for the sewers and house drains where blockages have been an ongoing issue creating $16000 plumbing repair bills for homeowners.
Here in Queensland Michelle Cull from Queensland Urban Utilities said it was a “real win” for sewers as “We remove around 160 tonnes of flushable wipes from our sewerage network every year. Laid end-to-end, that’s enough to stretch all the way from Brisbane to Bali. We spend around $1.5 million a year clearing blockages from our sewer pipes and flushable wipes are a big contributing factor.”
The campaign by Choice against flushable wipes has been an outstanding success. In 2015 Kleenex flushable wipes were an outstanding winner in their 2015 “Shonky Awards” which we highlighted in Flushable Wipes Win “Shonky Award” from CHOICE at the time.
On Thursday after the Federal Court, decision Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey reiterated that the false claims about flushable wipes were a “grubby marketing tactic that left households, local councils and water services organisations having to struggle with the cost of removing these wipes from the sewage system”.
The $700,000 fine is a positive message to manufacturers and the water industry and plumbers are now hopeful the manufacturers of wipes products now prominently label DO NOT FLUSH on all their products.
The $700,000 fine also sends a positive international message as the water industry worldwide has collectively committed to a position statement where all wipes and personal hygiene products must be clearly marked DO NOT FLUSH and that they can only be disposed of in the rubbish bin.
Here at Whywait Plumbing, we hope this $700,000 fine reinforces to everyone that any wipe product is never flushed down the toilet. I can only repeat if you wish to continue flushing wipes in all their forms down your toilet then I recommend you become aWhywait Plumbing Service Partner.
In August 2014 after a large number of issues where every other job we attended was a leaking water main, I concluded that all of them were caused by incorrect installation. In our monthly newsletter and in a blog I highlighted that negligence causes plumbing emergencies.
Since 2014 nothing has changed with polypipe leaking water main repairs being a constant source of work. The number of defective installations in new homes reinforces that a City of Gold Coast plumbing inspection is not a guarantee.
It is positive to see that the Department of Housing and Public Works issued Building And Plumbing Newsflash 558 on 13 March highlighting issues on the correct selection and installation of polyethylene (PE) pipe which is commonly called polypipe or blue line poly, used as a material for water supply installations. The QBBC also raised the matter in a blog Health and safety concerns relating to PE pipes, or ‘blue line poly’.
The issues we see every day on almost every leaking water main has been highlighted in the Newsflash with the Department stating “…..has become aware of issues associated with PE pipe including pipe leakage resulting from material splitting and holes developing in the material. Although the direct cause of these failings has not been determined, it is timely that the department issue advice on the correct selection and installation of the product.”
When installing a polypipe water main a licenced plumber must ensure that it is done so in accordance with the Plumbing Code of Australia and the referenced standard which is AS/NZS 3500.1-2015. These are not options but are law as per the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002.
The following clauses in AS/NZS 3500.1-2015 must be complied with in regard to installing any underground water main:
- Clause 2.3 Selection and Use of Materials and Products – this clause states that materials and products used in a water service shall be selected to ensure fitness for their intended purpose and goes on to list all those factors so that there is no doubt.
- Clause 5.2 Proximity to Other Services – this clause is very specific on hoe water service pipes are to be separated from any other underground services including gas or electrical and drainage pipes. The separation distances range between 100mm and 600mm depending on the size of the water service and the type of the neighbouring service. The specific requirements are laid out in clauses 5.2.1 through to 5.2.10.
- Clause 5.9 Depth of Cover – this clause once again is very specific in stating the depth at which underground pipes shall be with table 5.9 giving specific loading conditions and the minimum cover or depth which ensure the pipe is protected. In most cases the minimum depth is 300mm unless there are vehicle loading factors which then can require the pipe to be at 750mm depending on what the ground surface is.
- Clause 5.10 Bedding and Backfill – this clause is the one we see most commonly ignored on the Gold Coast and is what causes the entire leaking water main to require replacing. The clause is very specific in stating that the pipe must be surrounded entirely with a minimum of 75mm of compacted sand or fine grain soil with no hard edged object in contact with the pipe. Again very specifically it states the final backfill shall be free from rock, hard matter, organic matter and be broken up to ensure that there are no soil lumps larger than 75mm.
- Clause 5.11 Installation in Contaminated Areas – this clause states exactly what is a contaminated area and that a pipe laid in a contaminated area shall be installed in a water tight, corrosion resistant conduit.
The clauses above are quite specific on how your water main should be installed. They are specific requirements under the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002. They are not options the plumber can choose to opt in and out of.
If you suffer a leaking water main and it is not installed as per the above clauses the licensed plumber installing it has done so knowing it is non-compliant and that it is reasonably foreseeable that failure and damage will occur over time. Very simply this is negligence.
World Plumbing Day is on 11 March every year and in 2018 that is this Sunday. Established by the World Plumbing Council, (WPC) in 2010 it is now celebrated around the world to promote the critical links between proper plumbing sanitation and human and environmental health.
As the World Health Organisation continually promote ‘Plumbing is Public Health’. This is further reinforced through a survey of 11000 doctors by the prestigious British Medical Journal in 2007 that voted overwhelmingly that the world’s most significant medical milestone since 1840 was sanitation. This was despite all the incredible medical breakthroughs in that time. Doctors recognised that the installation of a reliable sewage disposal system and a reliably clean water supply was judged the most significant medical advance in modern times.
Plumbing is Vital to Your Health
We take a toilet for granted that we even work while using it
Sadly in Australia and many other developed countries, we take our plumbing and sanitary drainage systems for granted.
We think its normal to turn on a tap and get a constant supply of clean drinking water. We think nothing of going to the toilet and flushing the cistern when finished. We believe having a long hot shower is normal for everyone.
In many countries, a plumbing infrastructure that we have here in Australia is only a dream. In too many countries right now plumbing at best is very basic and at worst downright non-existent. In these countries the consequences of poor plumbing infrastructure cause millions of people to die.
The statistics are scary and should make us reflect in Australia on our appreciation of our plumbing and sanitary drainage infrastructure. According to the World Health Organisation:
every 15 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease
patients suffering from water-related diseases occupy half of the worlds hospital beds at any given time
3,100,000 children die every year from water-related diseases
1,100,000,000 people do not have access to a safe, reliable water supply
2,600,000,000 people do not have access to a sanitary toilet system
Plumbing Infrastructure Would Improve Every One of These Statistics
In Australia, few people pay any attention to the skills and expertise from plumbers to ensure that a buildings plumbing infrastructure is engineered to function with little fuss. It is even sadder that few people appreciate the ramifications of poorly installed plumbing infrastructure.
Plumbing infrastructure in Australia has always been at the leading edge of the technology as it continues to develop. Fortunately, all plumbers in Australia have to be licensed which ensures plumbers are legally responsible for complying with the Plumbing Code of Australia and relevant state legislation. This is not the case in many other countries with unskilled people installing poor quality infrastructure.
Plumbing is vital to everyone’s health and deserves to be respected for its essential role in promoting the link between proper quality plumbing, health, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity.
Without plumbing, none of us could live in a healthy environment in our large urbanised, densely populated cities. If you don’t believe me see how long you could survive in a house without working plumbing.
Respect For Plumbers and Their Skills
I continually hear many plumbers complaining that clients don’t treat them with respect and value their skills or the work they perform. But the reality is far too many licensed plumbers don’t respect themselves, their skills or their licences and are in a race to the bottom undervaluing and underselling the services they provide.
Plumbers who act as professionals and treat their clients with respect and above all respect their licences will always be treated with respect in return.
I’m well aware everyone loves a bargain especially with tradies giving cash discounts. We all understand household budgets are being stretched to the limit by ever increasing state government charges on electricity, car registration and water charges.
In the 41 years I’ve been in business nothing has changed in one area, and that is so many people expect substantial cash discounts if they pay tradies in cash.
The trade services sector of the economy is notorious for undercutting and giving cash discounts to clients who pay in cash.
Generally, tradies who offer substantial cash discounts are solo operators who are pocketing the cash and not paying for critical business expenses to protect clients such as public liability insurance. As a rule, they are also tax cheats which cost us all more in tax ultimately.
Cash discounts rip everyone off including yourself when you have no invoice to prove who did the work which means no guarantees if anything goes wrong.
I have lost count of the number of times I have been out to defective and non-compliant plumbing jobs where the client cannot get hold of the original plumber who did the work. Frequently this is because they have no record of who did the work as they paid in cash for the work to be done cheaply. This results in the client paying twice to have the same job undertaken and often costs much more to rectify and make legally compliant.
The ATO and the Tax Commissioner, Chris Jordon are 100% correct in saying cash discounts were ripping “billions of dollars” out of the economy that would otherwise be going to services such as schools and hospitals.
Like most other business owners I am 100% supportive of Chris Jordon when he recently issued a passionate plea to Australians to stop paying tradies in cash as the ATO confronts a host of black-economy rorts that include the fraudulent misuse of ABN’s.
“Stop paying cash for a discount,” he has told taxpayers.“Because you are effectively cheating the system or helping someone else to. This is not a victimless crime. If you pay cash for a discount, in many cases you are effectively ripping off yourself as an Australian taxpayer, because this type of behaviour is what sees billions flow out of the tax system and into the cash economy.”
The Australian Government’s Black Economy Taskforce has estimated that the cash economy is now in excess of $25 billion a year. Simply this is $25 billion of cash transactions where no tax is paid in GST or PAYG or superannuation or company tax.
I’m well aware some people like to pay in cash but don’t rip yourself off by not getting an invoice from the tradie who has done your work if you pay him in cash. As a precaution, you should always ensure that you are getting a legitimate ‘Tax Invoice’ that has all the tradies details on it including a legitimate ABN and their QBCC contractors licence number.
It’s very simple to check an ABN to ensure it’s not a fictitious ABN. All you need to do is go the ABN Lookup and type in the ABN. It is quick and easy to do but gives you the assurance that you are dealing with a legitimate business that is paying their fair share of tax.
Every tradie must have a QBCC contractors licence and once again its very easy to check at the QBCC Online Licence Search. Remember if they don’t have a licence then you do not have to pay them.
Scarily the Black Economy Taskforce found 40 percent of ABN’s quoted where cash is paid to tradies, were the Bunnings ABN. There is no suggestion Bunnings has done anything wrong.
The old cliche that you get what you pay for will always be true. There is no need to ever pay cash despite what some tradies will try and force you to do. You should never let a tradie take you to an ATM where they sit with you watching you take out cash.
In today’s world of instant payments and it pays to protect yourself and create a digital trail.
At Whywait Plumbing we will happily take payment in cash or cheque or credit card. But we will not give you a discount for paying in cash ever as every job is invoiced correctly and paid into our bank account.
Remember at Whywait guaranteed upfront pricing ensures you always know the cost of your job before we start the job.
Like every other Gold Coast plumber, we here at Whywait Plumbing are seeing a horrendous increase in blocked drains due to the skyrocketing popularity of so-called “flushable” wipes. The term “flushable” is a catchy phrase and a favourite sales pitch presenting an image of convenience and hygiene.
But the reality of what happens to flushable wipes once they are flushed down a toilet pan is that they do not dissolve like toilet paper.
In fact, they remain intact, and these pieces of non-woven fabric when regularly used are blocking toilets, blocking house drains and blocking the City of Gold Coast sewer system.
It is gratifying to see local media taking the lead and highlighting the absolute disaster that flushable wipes are to our local Gold Coast environment. In a recent interview with Robyn Wuth that I did for the story “Gold Coast Sewerage Treatment Plant Wiped Out Once A Week” which was published in the weekly Gold Coast Sun and online at the Gold Coast Bulletin I was accurately quoted as saying wipes are an “environmental nightmare”.
Frustratingly for many businesses such as restaurants the increase in customers using their toilets and flushing wipes down the toilet has seen an increase in the number of blocked drains they are experiencing. For many businesses, the repeated flushing of wipes has resulted in costly and inconvenient consequences.
The photo on the left clearly illustrates the problem where the toilets were all blocked at a Gold Coast McDonalds restaurant. Retrieving them in this instant was critical as they had created an interwoven tail of toilet paper held together with flushable wipes from the blocked toilet all the way into the sewer drains.
Wet wipes or disposable wet wipes are a new phenonium having only gained popularity in the last ten years. The early versions of these wipes were slow to gain widespread acceptance until manufacturers re-introduced them for a broader range of applications other than being just baby wipes.
Now they are available for multiple cleaning and hygiene tasks in the home and in workplaces with them being packaged in convenient carry cases that fit into handbags, glove boxes etc. and as a result, their popularity has skyrocketed.
Frustratingly for ourselves and many Gold Coast plumbers, the durability of new generation wipes has seen blockages increase as the disposable wet wipes now come with confusing names. As you can in the photo on the right, they collect together in a drain very quickly and are a nightmare for us to remove in commercial high rise buildings.
Sadly flushable is assumed to mean biodegradable to consumers who love their convenience. As a result, when wipes are flushed down the toilet, there is a misleading assumption that the wipe will be the same as toilet paper and dissolve.
For many of our clients flushable means just that, until the problems begin from repeated flushing of wipes. If they are lucky they only experience a toilet blockage but often it is a complete blocked drain that would never have occurred but for those appallingly named flushable wipes which are in reality non-flushable.
Trust me the only things that are flushable in your toilet are toilet paper, urine and faeces. If you wish to continue flushing wet wipes or flushable wipes in all their forms down your toilet, then I recommend you become a Whywait Plumbing Service Partner.
Flushable wipes or wet wipes are creating havoc all over Australia with the cost of removing them from the main city sewer systems and sewer treatment plants now exceeding $15 million. This does not include the cost to individual property owner where the cost of repairs ranges from $500 up to $16000.
As you can see in the photo to the right the flushable wipes travel all the way through the city sewer system. Along the way, they block sewer pipes, pump stations and manholes costing ratepayers money that could be better spent on other services. This photographically illustrates the huge “fatbergs” of flushable wipes that have to be physically removed from sewer treatment plants.
Commercial building owners, restaurants, apartment blocks and factories are all having to post signs warning people not to flush flushable wet wipes down toilets.
Flushable wipes come in many guises and are available for multiple cleaning and hygiene tasks in the home and in workplaces. Unfortunately for our sewer drains they are now being packaged in convenient carry cases that fit into handbags, glove boxes and even school bags. As a result of their convenience, their popularity has skyrocketed.
For many homeowners, the repeated flushing of wipes has resulted in costly and inconvenient consequences. A simple blockage may only cost around $500 to clear.
But there have been numerous reports of these flushable wet wipes “fatbergs” so badly blocking household sewer drains as can be seen in the photo on the left that the only way to remove them is to excavate and remove the damaged section of the drain. The cost to excavate drains quickly runs into $1000’s of dollars with reports of $16000 plumbing repair bills not being uncommon.
Gold Coast Water like all of the nation’s water utilities is battling to warn people not to flush the badly named flushable wet wipes down their toilets. Around 70% of blockages in Gold Coast Water pump stations are now caused by not-so-flushable wet wipes.
The repeated warnings come as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched an investigation into whether the marketing of wet wipes as “flushable” is misleading consumers.
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has been raising the alarm bells for the last year over not-so-flushable wet wipes. Last year they particularly highlighted the very popular Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths For Kids which still held together after 21 hours of agitation in their testing lab.
The CHOICE campaign was so successful that the Kleenex has now introduced a new “flushable” wipes and again CHOICE has tested the reformulated Kleenex CleanRipple Flushable Wipes. And despite all the claims by Kleenex, the CHOICE tests found the CleanRipple wipe failed to fully disintegrate after an hour in an agitator. In comparison, toilet paper continually dissolved in a few minutes as its designed to do.
CHOICE state, “Although the new ones break down faster and are an improvement, we argue they are not entirely safe to flush and we still believe they pose a blockage threat.”
Giant multi-national Kimberly-Clark the manufacturer of Kleenex CleanRipple Flushable Wipes state that the claims made by CHOICE were disappointing as both its new paper-based and previous generation flushable wipes met “widely accepted industry guidelines”. Although no one can show approvals for these guidelines.
Even the Kleenex website puts up a smoke screen where it states Kleenex flushable wipes are “only suitable for use in properly maintained sewerage systems and commercial septic systems” and to “flush a maximum of two wipes at a time”.
Currently, the Water Services Association of Australia, (WSAA) is developing a standard for safe “flushable” wipes. However, until that standard has been completed there is no Australian Standard or industry guideline that could allow any manufacturer to market or endorse their flushable wet wipes as FLUSHABLE down your toilet.
I can only repeat what I have said many times and that is the only things that are flushable in your toilet are toilet paper, urine and faeces. If you wish to continue flushing wet wipes in all their forms down your toilet then I recommend you become a Whywait Plumbing Service Partner as you will need the benefits.