“Never Flush Wipes” Campaign Launches in Metro Vancouver
22 April 2016
Metro Vancouver today rolls out its campaign to encourage people not to flush disposable wipes. The region-wide initiative builds on a pilot in the City of Pitt Meadows that measurably decreased the amount of wipes being flushed.
“People flush some pretty weird things, but it’s the mundane items like wipes that cause the big problems,” said Metro Vancouver Utilities Chair Darrell Mussatto. “It costs us millions of dollars each year to clear clogs and keep the pipes flowing.”
Disposable wipes don’t break down like toilet paper in the sewer system, instead they mix with grease and harden to form blockages called “fatbergs.” The strong, interwoven fibres in wipes also jam sewage treatment equipment, which has to be cleared manually. Clogged sewer overflows can damage homes, businesses and the environment. Metro Vancouver and local municipalities spend over $2 million each year to clear wipes and grease out of the sewer system.
The campaign officially launches today and will run for eight weeks. The concept developed in the pilot project uses a lighthearted and humorous theme of “Adult Toilet Training” and focuses on reaching women in public washrooms, though social media, at Cineplex theatres and at select Shoppers Drug Mart stores. A campaign-branded pink port-a-potty will also tour outdoor events throughout the region. http://www.neverflushwipes.ca
“It’s really important to reach our target audience in relevant places like bathrooms and at point-of-sale,” said Director Mussatto. “The pilot’s results also show the importance of using community channels and having municipal support.”
The two-month pilot project with the City of Pitt Meadows was assessed through a public opinion survey and through physical monitoring at the Baynes Road Sewage Pump Station. Half of women surveyed recalled the wipes advertising, and over 90 per cent who saw the advertising said they were already disposing of wipes in the garbage, or now will.
An average of 18 wipes per hour entered the Baynes Road Sewage Pump Station before the pilot, and this dropped to 12 per hour during the campaign, and six per hour after. GoPro camera measurements confirmed that the amount of foreign objects in the station’s main pipe had dropped significantly after the pilot. Metro Vancouver will take periodic measurements in 2016 to see if this trend continues.
“We are heartened by the results of the pilot and hope to see similar results region wide,” said Director Mussatto. “We encourage everyone to be mindful of what they flush down the toilet.”
Many brands of wipes are advertised as “flushable” even though they don’t actually break down properly, and fatbergs are a problem for utility operations all over the world. In parallel to the Never Flush Wipes campaign, Metro Vancouver is supporting the establishment of a standard for flushability through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).