Scottish Water calls for a no wet wipes New Year

27 December 2023
mounds of wet wipes in a skip

Say no to wet wipes

A skip full of wet wipes and rags at East Calder wastewater treatment works

Scottish Water is encouraging householders in West Lothian to make banning wet wipes their New Year's resolution for 2024.

This follows on from two recent pipe blockages at East Calder Wastewater Treatment Works that required emergency work to be undertaken. During the repair work, site contractors found that the blockages were caused by a combination of wet wipes, sanitary products, and fats, oils, and grease that had been disposed of down toilets and drains, instead of the bin or recycling.

The blockages were discovered in the Primary Settlement Tanks which is the first part of the sewage treatment process. While the site was able to continue operations despite this issue, it highlights the importance of proper waste disposal. The blockages could have led to serious disruptions in service and potential environmental damage if not addressed promptly.

East Calder's Wastewater Treatment Works treats around 32 million litres of wastewater per day from the majority of Livingston and the surrounding areas. The problem of improper disposal of items disposed of incorrectly is so acute that hundreds of tonnes of wet wipes are screened and removed from the works each year. However, even with effective screening, some debris still gets through and ends up clogging critical pipework or may even escape back out into our local rivers.

“We urge the public to be mindful of what they put down their drains,” said a spokesperson for Scottish Water. 

“Items such as wet wipes, sanitary products, and fats, oil and grease should be disposed of in the bin, not the drain. These items do not break down easily, are very challenging to screen out before treatment starts and can cause significant blockages in our treatment works.”  

Scottish Water is committed to providing reliable waste water treatment services to the communities it serves. However, the effectiveness of these services relies on the public disposing of waste correctly.

In a campaign last year under the banner of "Keep Livi Lovely" which was run in collaboration with local campaign groups, the main message focused on the correct disposal of wet wipes, sanitary products and fats, oil and grease. 

In a recent survey commissioned by Scottish Water, 72% of customers said they never flush wet wipes down the toilet, yet only 36% of customers have bathroom bins suggesting that wipes and sanitary products are likely ending up down the toilet.

A Scottish Water spokesperson said; "It is blockages in the network and like the one that we have seen in East Calder, that our Nature Calls campaign is focused on reducing.  

“Each year our teams respond to tens of thousands of blockages at a cost of around £7million of bill payers money. As a publicly owned organisation, we would rather invest this money into improving our assets.  

“So, this year we're asking all local households to make it their new year’s resolution to throw away and not flush items like wet wipes, sanitary products and cooking fats.”