Tuesday, 26 March 2019 14:55

Raising awareness of sanitary disposal and fatbergs with social campaign

Best known for its work excavating the famous London Whitechapel fatberg, drainage firm Lanes Group plc has teamed up with a charity to help to raise funds and spread awareness of the correct way to dispose of sanitary products, an issue that's creating a huge problem in the nation's sewer system and waterways.

The growing problem of fatbergs is being made worse by people flushing tampons and other sanitary products down the toilet, when they should all be placed in the bin.

The campaign has now hit its target and donated much-needed products to charity.

lanes sanitary products disposalcaptionThe "Be a Binner, Not a Sinner" social media campaign encouraged people to share a hard-hitting image that highlighted the importance of disposing of all sanitary items in a bin, rather than flushing them down the toilet.

For every share or retweet of the post, Lanes pledged to donate a FabLittleBag sanitary disposal pack to the Red Box Project charity, which provides sanitary products to local schools to combat period poverty. The post received more than 30,000 impressions across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and was liked and shared more than 600 times.

Lanes has now donated £500 worth of FabLittleBag packs to the Red Box Project charity, with plans to extend its support following the success of the collaboration. FabLittleBags are biodegradable disposal bags designed to prevent blockages and ocean pollution caused by flushing tampons and pads.


The donation follows a study by Lanes of more than 1,000 women, which found that 39% of respondents have flushed either a sanitary towel, panty liner or tampon down the toilet in their lifetime, amounting to as many as 20 million women in the UK.

These feminine hygiene products contain 'hidden plastic' that make them more durable, but also mean they do not biodegrade. As a result, they cause blockages in the sewer system and combine with fats, oils and grease, also incorrectly disposed of in our drains, to create fatbergs. Not only that, but they release harmful microplastics into the nation's waterways too.

Michelle Ringland, head of marketing at Lanes, says: "The scale of the problem around sanitary disposal is shocking and we have pledged to raise awareness of this in a number of ways, including working with local schools to educate youngsters.

"The current period poverty crisis our nation is facing is equally concerning, with a growing number of young girls and women unable to afford basic sanitary products every month. It felt like a perfect opportunity to combine these two crucial issues and help to raise awareness of both problems, while supporting a fantastic local charity."

Martha Silcott, CEO, Inventor of FabLittleBag, says: "Period poverty is a travesty which we need to eradicate as quickly as possible. It has been such a pleasure to work with Lanes, who are so proactive in addressing issues that affect the communities within which they work.

"Supporting the amazing volunteers at the Red Box Project is something that FabLittleBag feels passionately about and we hope to continue to raise awareness and provide positive solutions for eco-conscious and confident disposal of sanitary products to women and girls throughout the UK."

Stacy Sykes, volunteer coordinator at the Red Box Project, says: "I supply restocked boxes to five schools in my local area, so this very generous donation will benefit them greatly. A proportion will also be distributed to other Red Box Projects with the aim of further raising awareness of the importance of correctly disposing of sanitary products.

"We are a community-powered voluntary organisation quietly ensuring no young person misses school because they have their period. Our aim is to ensure that every young person in the UK has access to free, universally available menstrual products in their school. Whilst this service is not provided centrally by the UK government, we strive to fill the gap and donations like these help us to do so."

93% of Brits support fatberg fight, but 59% oppose govt wet wipe ban

Baby wipes and antibacterial household wipes are the most common types of disposable wipes in British households, used by 44% and 52% of people respectively. 59% of people said they would not support the proposed government blanket ban on the sale of disposable wipes.

The most common reason for this was that 'there is nothing wrong with wipes, as long as people dispose of them correctly', a sentiment that 43% of those opposed to the ban agreed with.

Among those who were in favour of a government ban on disposable wipes, cleaning wipes and toilet tissue-style wipes were the most commonly selected as the types of wipes they would be in favour of banning. Baby wipes were the least likely to be selected, with just 15% of respondents in favour of the government banning baby wipes. 41% of those in favour of a ban said their main reason was that wipes are part of a 'disposable culture' that is bad for the environment.

lanes wet wipesMichelle Ringland, Head of Marketing at Lanes for Drains, said: "Disposable wipes should never ever be flushed down the toilet, even if they say 'flushable' on the packaging. The vast majority of them do not biodegrade easily and are usually made from polyester, containing millions of microfibers that are impregnated with chemicals.

"Not only are these making their way into our sewers and creating fatbergs like the 130-tonne 'monster' we helped to excavate in Whitechapel, they are also entering the nation's waterways and clogging up riverbeds. The only thing that is safe to flush down the toilet or sink is one of the 'three Ps'; pee, poo and toilet paper; everything else must go in the bin. It's great to see the British public clearly want to do something about the problems in our sewers, with 93% in favour of more education, but many are getting mixed messages on where to begin"

Research from Water UK revealed that wipes make up around 93% of the material in sewer blockages and are estimated to cause around 300,000 blockages every year, at a cost of £100 million to the country. Earlier this year, waterways charity Thames21 revealed that more than 5,000 wet wipes were found in a single area of the Thames foreshore measuring 116 square metres, which is the highest number of wet wipes ever found in a single place in the UK.

Michelle said: "After more than a decade of circulation and ever-increasing popularity, wet wipes have become one of the most environmentally damaging products in our households and people are dangerously reliant on them. The only way to stop them blocking the drains, polluting our waterways, contaminating oceans and killing marine life is to enforce a ban.

"In the meantime, the very least that manufacturers can do is to change their packaging and branding to reflect the fact that no wipe is 'flushable' and the only safe way to dispose of them is in the bin."

General awareness of the dangers of fatbergs has improved since the last time Lanes Group polled the general public. When asked 'Have you ever heard of the term fatberg', only 47% said yes in September 2017, compared with 61% in July 2018.

When asked which types of wet wipes are flushable, 49% correctly answered 'none of them' in 2017, compared with 64% in 2018.

Michelle said: "It is encouraging to see that people have a better understanding of the damage occurring in our sewers and how their daily behaviour affects this. Our Fatberg Fighters initiative with schoolchildren during the past year has hopefully helped to raise this awareness. The conversation around plastics pollution, sparked by Blue Planet, has certainly spread the message about what should and should not go into our waterways, but we are only at the start of a long journey".