This month’s Thneed winner: Should “flushable wipes” really be flushed?

This month’s Thneed winner: Should “flushable wipes” really be flushed?

The modern drive to “give me convenience or give me death” can be found even in the most intimate corners of American life.

For example, take the act of, shall we say, human posterior hygiene (aka butt-wiping).

While Europeans (especially those in the southern part of the continent) commonly use bidets to minimize the need for paper wipes, Americans have long preferred to load up on rolls and rolls of toilet paper. So, what could be more attractive than a product that requires far fewer sheets and gives you a “pure, natural clean”?

Enter the flushable wipe, which is now available in supermarkets throughout the world and the winner of the March 2019 Thneed Trophy.

As demonstrated in this cute video, flushable wipes really shouldn’t be flushed because many brands’ sheets don’t decompose like standard toilet paper. Instead, they slowly meander down your pipes, often getting caught in bends. Worse yet, they can pick up grease and oils along the way, congealing into clumps large enough to entirely block huge sewer pipes.  

These clogging agents are technically known as fatbergs and, if for no other reason, bringing the word “fatberg” into the vocabulary of sanitary engineers everywhere should be enough to capture the Thneed Trophy.

But these wipes go even further to earn the honor. Fatbergs are such a problem that the city of London spends about $1.4 million per month to clear up those blockages.  But even with a good cleaning, neither London nor any other city can filter out (and landfill) all of the wipes. This means a good clump of those wipes make it through the pipes and pollute oceans with bits of plastic that can be fatally consumed by turtles, whales and other sea creatures.

So, next time you contemplate the millisecond of comfort from a flushable wipe, try to visualize a fatberg or a sea turtle coughing up a plastic pellet. I guarantee the temptation will dissolve far faster than the wipe itself.

The Thneed Trophy is awarded monthly by Environmental Action to a product that exemplifies the spirit of The Lorax’s “thneed”. It’s the thing that everyone wants but nobody needs, for which all of the Truffula Trees were cut down.  In other words, bad for the environment, with little or no redeeming social value.

This message is not associated with or endorsed by the creators or the publishers of the Lorax.