Countdown is supporting efforts to stop wet wipes ending up in New Zealand's wastewater systems by rolling out signage in all of its stores reminding customers not to flush them.
Wet wipes, which have become increasingly popular as New Zealand faces tackles the COVID-19 pandemic, are being flushed down toilets and causing huge, and costly, pipe blockages.
Countdown’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability Kiri Hannifin said that while wipes can be useful, customers must dispose of them properly.
“We appreciate that customers are particularly keen to keep surfaces in their homes clean and safe at the moment, but we just want to make sure people are putting them in the bin rather than the toilet when they have been used," said Hannifin.
“Wipes don't just cause problems at wastewater plants - they can also damage your pipes at home and can be incredibly expensive to repair. The most cost effective solution for everyone is to dispose of them correctly. Our message is simple: Please don’t flush wipes.”
President of Local Government New Zealand Dave Cull has welcomed Countdown’s new signage, saying councils throughout the country are struggling to cope with the impact of wet wipes.
“We’re hearing from many councils throughout New Zealand about increased blockages in their wastewater systems due to wet wipes. We all have to do our bit to make sure councils can focus on providing essential services to their communities, rather than clearing unnecessary blockages which could have otherwise been avoided.”
Water New Zealand also welcomed the new signage. Technical Manager Noel Roberts said that right across the country there has been a big increase in the number of dry weather sewage overflows caused by blockages due to wipes and other non-flushables in recent years.
“This is not only a risk to the environment, but also a costly headache for wastewater operators,” said Roberts.
Wipes do not break down like toilet paper and tend to bind with other non-flushable materials such as oil and fats to create fatbergs.
“We need to make it clear that only the 3-p’s – pee, poo and paper should go down the toilet. Everything else needs to go in the bin.”
Countdown customers will find the new signs in shopping aisles where all types of wipes are available.