An ‘island’ of discarded wet wipes spanning the size of two tennis courts has formed on the banks of the River Thames in west London.
The huge blockage near Hammersmith is getting worse by the day and the situation has become so bad it has prompted MPs to advise people against flushing the wipes down the toilet.
Wet wipes make up about 90% of “fatbergs” — huge masses of frozen household waste, grease and plastic — that clog the sewer system.
The mound is located on the bank near Barnes, in the section of the Thames that runs through Hammersmith, laser images from the charity Thames 21 released last year show.
Labor MP for Putney, Fleur Anderson, called for an outright ban on making wipes with plastic materials, when she introduced a bill in the House of Commons last year.
Speaking during a question and answer session on environment, food and rural affairs on Thursday, she said: ‘There is a lack of awareness that by flushing them out they don’t disintegrate, they stay. long in the system.
“They go to the sea, they go to the banks of the Thames.
“There’s an island the size of two tennis courts and I’ve been there and stood on it – it’s near Hammersmith Bridge in the River Thames and it’s a meter or more deep in places. where there are only wet wipes.
“It actually changed the course of the Thames.”
Ms Anderson has advised the Government to ‘move forward’ with its plan to ban plastic in wet wipes, following a consultation that ended in February.
On the proposed ban, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said people shouldn’t use wet wipes if they don’t have to, adding that wipes shouldn’t be ‘flushed down the toilet’ .
In February, a Thames Water survey found that two in five people admitted to flushing wet wipes and other sanitary products down the toilet.
Anna Boyles, Chief Operating Officer of Thames Water, said: “We know many busy families appreciate the convenience of wet wipes, but most are plastic and can take centuries to biodegrade. It’s like throwing a plastic bag down the toilet.
“Some wipes are marketed as ‘flushable’. All that means is that they’ll disappear around the U-bend, but they’re not gone for good and could end up clogging your pipes or in the river.
Ms Boyles also said: “We are working to get manufacturers to properly label their products and, even better, to completely remove plastic from wipes. If you use standard wet wipes, please put them in the trash instead of the toilet.
“We are also working with the Government, Ofwat and the Environment Agency to speed up work to prevent these unacceptable discharges of untreated sewage and sewage waste from happening in the first place.”