It is not a new problem: collectors in charge of collecting wastewater experience, with increasing frequency, clogging due to sanitary napkins that many people incorrectly dispose of down the toilet. This type of product has become widespread in recent years, and wastewater managers demand, on the one hand, awareness campaigns for a more responsible use of wipes and, on the other, the development by manufacturers of products with biodegradable materials or less damaging to urban sanitation systems.
The economic costs of removing wet wipes from drainage and purification systems reach, in Europe alone, 1 billion euros per year. Furthermore, wipes often end up in the sea as microplastics, causing serious impacts on ecosystems.
In recent months, this problem has multiplied: according to a Greenpeace report, the purchase of wet wipes increased by 49% in March in Spain, probably due to the greater concern of citizens about personal hygiene and disinfection. In addition to the wipes, swabs and even condoms that often end up in the toilet, as a result of the pandemic, clogs in collectors have also increased due to the presence of gloves and masks.
This is a problem that municipalities and water management companies in many municipalities in Spain have already reported, but it is common in countries around the world. In the United States, for example, wastewater plant operators have reported a significant increase in pipeline clogs and various equipment damage in recent months. In Houston sanitary sewer overflows increased 33% between February and March alone due to bottlenecks and handkerchiefs, as reported to AP news by the heads of the Department of Public Works of that city.