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March of the Wet Wipes

What impact is the rise of the wet wipe having on our sewerage system, our waterways and our wildlife? Tom Heap investigates.

Over the last decade, wet wipes have become ubiquitous. There's a wipe for almost everything, from faces to furniture, and it's a multi-million pound industry. But our sewerage systems are paying the price. Tom Heap goes on a call-out with the teams whose job is unblocking the drains - and finds that the culprits are usually wet wipes. It doesn't stop with the sewers: wipes can now be found in their millions on our beaches and in our rivers - where they are affecting wildlife, and in some cases even changing the shape of the riverbed itself. Water companies say that nothing but pee, poo and paper should be flushed down the toilet. Many wipes are labelled "do not flush" - but Tom talks to experts who cast doubt over whether even the ones marked "flushable" really are.

Producer: Emma Campbell

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28 minutes

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