Sewer blockages ‘costing Londoners £12m every year’

The London Assembly says once removed, blockages are often incinerated, further polluting the city’s air

Big Zero Report 2022

Sewage blockages are costing Thames Water and billpayers across Greater London as much as £12 million every year.

The London Assembly says Thames Water has to unclog five house blockages a day from London’s sewers, a 30% increase from last year, with 30 tonnes of unflushable material having to be removed every 24 hours from one of its sites.

It says once removed, the sanitary towels, wet wipes and nappies blocking pipes are sent for incineration, adding to London’s carbon emissions and polluting the air – some of this material is sent to landfill, where it can take around 400 years to disintegrate.

The London Assembly Environment Committee has called for a number of schemes to be introduced to help reduce the amount of such items being flushed down toilets, including an initiative to get councils to help stop ‘unflushables’ entering the sewage system and to promote reusable alternatives.

It says the scheme should help reduce stigma about binning these items in places such as schools and suggests Sadiq Khan should request new rules requiring packaging to display proper disposal information and the presence of plastic in products.

The Committee also calls for the Greater London Authority to provide bins in men’s toilets for incontinence and other unflushable products, as currently bins are only installed in female toilets.

Caroline Russell, Chair of the Environment Committee, said: “Public awareness around single-use plastics in terms of disposable water bottles and coffee cups is high but what about other daily products, like wet wipes, nappies and period products?

“These products end up in our rivers and oceans, sit in landfills or are incinerated, inflicting irreparable damage on our environment.”

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