The rush on toilet paper during Covid lockdowns had me laughing so hard it nearly broke me. A whole civilization so anally fixated the most important thing was to NEVER be caught short in the ass wiping department. I was happy to go grab a few wild tobacco leaves and apply pressure evenly but apparently quite a few went the other way and headed to the baby condiment department and bought wet wipes. As a hippy parent wet wipes were definitely not the cool thing to use with bubs so I never really experienced that soothing lanolin smear until much later on in life. In hindsight (using a mirror!), I can see how they could appeal to a new age of toilet tissue starved Covidians. However much the wet wipe claims to be flushable or biodegradable though…it aint! After having dealt with a few different varieties of turd burgs myself, I can safely say that they are a persistent pollutant and quite capable of blocking up even the largest diameter pipes. A turd burg, to the uninitiated, is a combination of sewage and wet wipes that resists all attempts to go with the flow. A literal constipation of the sewerage bowels. Compost toilets are not even totally immune from these phenomena, and even if the wet wipes do reach the compost chamber, they will be forever in your humus and therefore back in the earth eventually.
Since 2020 the reporting of blockages of sewer systems due to wet wipes has skyrocketed. This could be a good thing as a part of a broader transition to cleaner assholes (see last article), but for the time being it is a very real municipal problem faced by every council. About 75% of all sewer blockages are caused by wet wipes so next time you are swearing because that plumber won’t return your call it is probably because he’s dealing with a very avoidable turd burg and getting paid quite handsomely to do so.
Municipal sewerage systems have built in fail safes to deal with blockages and they often discharge raw untreated sewage into creeks and rivers rather than back up water into houses. This creates a huge risk to human health and an unhealthy ecosystem. Pumps in domestic and municipal systems get clogged up, burn out seals and cause pumps to fail outright.
Wet wipes should be banned outright or manufacturers held to account for the costs of removing them from the sewer, which runs into the millions annually which we pay for from our rates. Recently Ballina Shire Council insisted I take out various forms of insurance before they would assess my clients development applications. I bet they don’t insist that “flushable” wet wipe manufacturers pay for the blockages they create.
If you need something better than loo paper, and I encourage an open mind in this department, then experiment with truly bio-degradable options like the furry wild tobacco leaf. Just don’t confuse it with the Giant Stinging tree leaf which to the casual observer may also look appealing….that would be a big mistake indeed.