Cleaning hands with wet wipes

Certified ‘Fine to Flush’ wet wipes released to help tackle plague of fatbergs

Image credit: Dreamstime

The first wet wipes which are certified as ‘Fine to Flush’ will be put on sale in March, organic health and hygiene company Natracare has announced.

A large-scale 2017 study carried out by trade body Water UK estimated that non-flushable wet wipes make up approximately 93 per cent of the material causing the 300,000 sewer blockages experienced every year, costing the country £100m per annum to clear up. The most dramatic sewage blockages are caused by ‘fatbergs’: colossal congealed mounds of non-biodegradable matter, such as wet wipes, nappies, condoms, and congealed grease.

A monstrous fatberg discovered blocking a section of London’s sewage network in 2017 weighed 130 tonnes and stretched the length of two football pitches. The notorious fatberg – which was eventually removed and partially converted into biodiesel – helped raise awareness of the consequences of flushing non-biodegradable products.

Now, Natracare has announced that it will be putting on sale the UK’s first officially certified ‘Fine to Flush’ wet wipes. The wet wipes will be available from Waitrose, Ocado and independent health shops and pharmacies.

The ‘Fine to Flush’ certification was announced by Water UK in January. Products that pass its stringent and costly testing process to ensure that they do not contain plastic and that they break down in the sewage system (and do not contaminate aquatic environments) will be allowed to carry a new symbol indicating that they can be flushed safely.

“This symbol will let consumers know that the products don’t contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of clogging up sewers and contributing to fatbergs,” Water UK said in a statement on its website. Michael Roberts, Water UK CEO described the certification as “an important step in the battle against blockages” which could make it easier for consumers to buy environmentally friendly products.

Many brands still adhere to standards set by the European Disposables and Nonwovens Association (EDANA), which requires products to adhere to less strict criteria to be labelled as appropriate for flushing. Products certified by EDANA may break down more slowly in real sewage systems and may still contain plastic and wood pulp. Wet wipes which are not filtered out by water treatment companies could release harmful materials – such as tiny plastic fibres – into the aquatic environment and potentially enter the human food chain.

A 2018 BBC investigation found that no wet wipes sold in the UK that had been certified as “flushable” passed standard water industry disintegration tests.

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