What does ‘flushable’ really mean? Wightman & Parrish investigates…

posted in: Hygiene, Paper | 0

Concerns raised in 2016 by the water industry about misleading ‘flushable’ product marketing has recently resurfaced as wet wipes are causing blockages in the UK sewage system.


The improper disposal of wet wipes is contributing to the plastic pollution in the United Kingdom. This is due to many wet wipes containing microplastics fibres. The “fatberg” blocking the London sewers was front page news.

The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA) has been looking into this problem since 2008 and is still looking to provide industry standards for manufacturers.  At the moment, each product must undergo a series of tests to be compliant with the regulators. However, it is apparent that the testing performed by manufacturers sometimes doesn’t reflect what actually happens in the sewage system as those deemed ‘flushable’ are sometimes not.

Before we start pointing fingers, the blame does not lie solely with suppliers. Part of the problem lies with consumers. Those individuals using these products must ensure they are aware of how to dispose correctly of the item. Currently packaging will contain a ‘Do Not Flush’ symbol, which some manufacturers have suggested should be made more obvious.

So what makes a wipe truly flushable? According to manufacturer, Vernacare, flushable wipes will contain a high proportion cellulose which is completely biodegradable. Often wipes are reinforced with manmade materials for strength and durability. These are the microplastic fibres which can cause plastic pollution in our environment.

“It’s a shame that wet wipes are causing such an issue for our wastage systems and it’s distressing to see the impact on our environment.” Says Nicholas Parrish, Managing Director at Wightman & Parrish.

He continues “We recommend if in doubt, always dispose of wet wipes in sanitary bins and check the logo which can often be found on the bottom of the packet. The EDANA have recently released a new code of practice which means suppliers will be under more pressure now to ensure non-woven materials are marketed correctly. This is a step in the right direction and I expect to see many of our suppliers adopting these practices.”

Vernacare launch Conti Flushable Wet Wipes

Vernacare have recently launched an all-in-one flushable wet wipe. 

“We see a lot of wipes that are classified as ‘flushable by size’ with the material itself not actually being suitable to be disposed of down the drain. Unfortunately a lot of people’s attitudes is that if the wipe is gone after they flush, then it’s someone else’s problem. Conti flushable wipes are different however.” Vernacare says.

The Conti wipes combine strength, softness and cleansing properties. The best thing is they are fully flushable!