The New York Times published a startling article this morning about one of the great underreported issues of our times: the wet wipe epidemic slowly but surely destroying New York City's sewer system. The butt wipes have reportedly caused millions in damages, and workers have been forced to physically remove the shit-stained ghosts of the unprocessed sanitary products from the sides of pipes and screening machines.
Sales for the wipes have surged in recent years, in large part because more adults have starting using them to clean their butts; Bloomberg reports that sales grew 23 percent from 2008 to 2013, to a staggering $367 million.
Booming sales of the wipes, only a small percentage of which are labeled as "flushable," have translated to high costs for cities around the world. New York, the Times reports, has spent more than $18 million over the past five years repairing damage caused by wet wipes; London, Charleston, West Virginia, Portland, Oregon, and cities in Alaska, Hawaii, California, and Wisconsin have also reported costly wipe-related problems.
What's being done to rid the world of this butt wipe plague? Government officials and butt wipe lobbyists are encouraging users to throw away the wipes instead of lazily flushing them, which would work if people were willing to actually retrain themselves after decades of depositing used toilet paper directly into the toilet. And Mayor Bill de Blasio has introduced a bill that would prevent wet wipes from begin advertised as flushable, in part because of the flawed methods for determining what is and isn't water disposable. From the Times:
At issue, primarily, is an industry trial known as the "slosh box test," designed to gauge disintegration thresholds. Critics say the test, which rocks wipes back and forth in a crate of water, does not properly mimic the wastewater system, allowing manufacturers to claim flushability for a product that may be too sturdy for treatment systems. The test is "a lot more turbulent than the flow that you find in a wastewater pipe," said Cynthia Finley, director of regulatory affairs for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. Flushed materials, she added, generally move "on very gentle slopes."