Making the right choice – toilet or bin?

Wipes make up to 93% of material causing sewer blockages, according to a study by Water UK.

There are 300,000 sewage blockages in the UK every year at a cost of £100 million, according to the study by the trade body for water companies.

An investigation of 54 blockages discovered that baby wipes alone made up 75% of blockage material.

The survey found other items like cosmetic wipes, sanitary towels and nappies also were a major cause of blockages.

Rae Stewart, Water UK's director of corporate affairs, said: "Our sewerage system is just not designed to handle things like baby wipes which don't break down in water.

"The good news is that by taking action we can stop the horror people face when their homes are flooded with raw sewage."

Local water company United Utilities clears 25,000 sewer blockages every year at a cost of £10 million, and as with the national trend the biggest cause is wet wipes.

The company has linked up with sewer boffins in a research lab to find out what goes through our minds, rather than our bodies when we flush the loo.

To help understand how best to educate customers not to flush away wet wipes shoppers in Warrington have been part of the study at Golden Square Shopping Centre.

Rachel Bacon, wastewater network manager at United Utilities said: “The aim of the trial is to see if customers listened to our messages.  We provided the wipes, we provided the bins and after reading the messages, did they choose to flush or did they choose to bin.

“It’s a dirty job, but we are now going to take away all the items out of the bin, so they can be counted, categorised and analysed to help us understand which message hits home best.”

If a blockage occurs within the boundaries of a property, the owner is responsible for the cost of fixing it.

Pipes outside the boundary are owned by the water company, which is liable for the cost of repairs.

EDANA, an industry group for makers of non-woven materials like wipes, is encouraging its members and retailers to adopt the "Do Not Flush" logo on all non-flushable products by October next year.

"It is clear that further outreach to the public is needed on this issue to inform them about the difference between flushable and non-flushable wipes," said Marines Lagemaat, scientific and technical affairs director of EDANA.