6:40pm Wednesday 7th November 2012
By Mike Addison
A caravan park says its efforts to operate an eco-friendly business are being blocked by families using wet wipes in place of loo paper.
The fast-growing trend, says Skelwith Fold caravan park in Ambleside, is affecting the way it processes sewerage naturally through a specially planted reed bed.
Park director Henry Wild said wet wipes, unlike toilet paper, did not degrade in time to pass through the roots of the reed bed where waste water is treated organically. Instead, the wipes absorb pollutants such as fat, and go on to clog up pipes and damage pumps.
Now in a bid to stop the threat, the park is offering to give a premium brand toilet roll to newly arrived guests in exchange for their wet wipes which will then be composted.
Although Skelwith Fold played host to more than 400 families at its busiest times, said Mr Wild, the park's biological purification system normally coped very well.
Its reed bed was one of the environmentally-friendly features which this year resulted in the park being presented with the David Bellamy Conservation Award at its top gold level.
But Mr Wild said: “We don't blame our holidaymakers because the packaging on many of these products claims that they are biodegradable or flushable – but this simply isn't the case.
“Ordinary toilet paper disintegrates within seconds of being in contact with water, but wet wipes do not break down and can cause unspeakable problems once they enter the system.
“In high season, we estimate that a lavatory is being flushed every 30 seconds at Skelwith Fold, and we designed our reed bed to handle comfortably this volume of effluent.
“However, in the past year we have seen a surge in the use of wet wipes which are putting a block, quite literally, on our aim of putting nature in place of industrialised treatment," added Mr Wild.
But the writing will soon be on the wall for Britain's latest loo accessory if, as Mr Wild hopes, guests take up his park's offer to recycle their wet wipes as compost.
“Reeds do a fantastic job of filtering and cleaning sewerage without machinery or the addition of chemicals which could harm wildlife,” said Mr Wild.
“But even mother nature can’t cope with wet wipes, so those we exchange for loo rolls will be composted and used as a mulch for our new plantings. Hopefully, we'll then be putting this matter to bed in every sense.”
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