13 September 2021

Setting the standard on flushable products

A national standard on flushable products will help to keep Hunter Water’s pipes free, reducing the cost and smell in your home or backyard and lessening the impact on our network.

The draft Australian/New Zealand Standard has been released for public comment. It aims to define the criteria for material suitable for flushing down the toilet, along with appropriate labelling requirements.

Water utilities and manufacturers joined forces to develop the standard, which is the first of its kind internationally.

Hunter Water Executive Manager Customer Services, Keiran Smith, said flushing the wrong products down the toilet could prove costly to fix.

He added the standard would take pressure off our wastewater system and improve conditions for our crews.

“We manage more than 5,000 kilometres of pipes to ensure our region’s system can reliably service wastewater from over 250,000 properties.

“Products like tissues, paper towel and wet wipes don’t break down properly and can cause large blockages in our wastewater system, which are expensive to remove.

“Sewer blockages are horrible and unpleasant for our crews to deal with, and they can cause overflows into our waterways and even people’s homes, leading to costly plumbing bills for the homeowner.

“The best way to keep pipes free is to only flush toilet paper, poo or pee. If you need to use products other than toilet paper, they should be bagged and binned.”
Keiran Smith, Executive Manager Customer Services

Hunter Water launched its own campaign last year to create genuine conversation and behavioural change around the issue of flushable products.

The Respect the Throne campaign responded to an immediate impact on our wastewater system as an increasing number of fatbergs were removed from our treatment plants amid the outbreak of COVID-19.

Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) and the urban water industry in Australia and New Zealand have also been concerned about the contribution of wet wipes and other items to pipe blockages for some time.

Members of WSAA reported an increase in blockages of between 20 and 60 per cent at the height of the pandemic last year.

WSAA Executive Director, Adam Lovell, said the standard provided manufacturers with clear specifications and set out methods for testing whether products were suitable for toilet flushing.

“[The standard] has been developed by a technical committee, including manufacturers, water utilities, peak bodies and consumer groups and includes pass or fail criteria.

“Importantly, the new draft standard will help customers identify which products can be flushed with clear labelling.”
Adam Lovell, WSAA Executive Director

The draft standard will be open to public comment until Monday 1 November 2021.

Visit Standards Australia’s website for more information.