Andrex wet wipes certified as 'fine to flush' by Water UK
British toiletries brand Andrex has today (27 February) announced that its washlet wipes range has achieved Water UK's 'Fine to Flush' certification, which symbolises that flushing them won't contribute to damage to UK sewers.
Andrex, owned by American corporate giant Kimberly-Clark, will place the Fine to Flush logo on its Washlet products from today. The wipes were independently tested by technical experts WRc, with the results finding that the products break down upon entering UK sewer systems and won't contribute to “fatbergs” that clog up sewer systems or seep into the natural environment.
“Our Andrex Washlets have adhered to international flushable standards for many years and we are very proud of the investment we have made to now also secure Water UK’s ‘Fine to Flush’ certification,” Kimberly-Clark UK’s vice president and managing director Ori Ben Shai said.
“This certification and partnership with Water UK sends a clear message to consumers that they can confidently use Andrex Washlets for superior cleaning whilst also being responsible towards the environment.”
Andrex estimates that around six million UK households purchased wipes in the last 12 months, with 50% choosing its Andrex Washlets range. The new products are biodegradable and contain 0% plastic and 100% natural fibres.
More than 14.8 billion baby wipes are used in the UK every year, many of which end up in waterways, oceans and wastewater systems. In fact, wet wipes made up more than 90% of the material causing sewer blockages investigated by Water UK in 2017.
Further investigations by the body found that wipes are now found in 60 to 75% of sewer blockages. Thames Water, for example, clears about 75,000 blockages from its network of sewers each year, costing an average of £18m.
Water UK’s chief executive Christine McGourty added: “This is a great step forward in the fight against fatbergs. In the water industry, we’re passionate about protecting the environment, and our ‘Fine to Flush’ standard is part of that, making it easier for consumers to buy something that’s environmentally friendly.
“We want other companies to follow the example of Andrex and make sure their products pass the ‘Fine to Flush’ test too. Everyone wants a future without fatbergs, and this will help make that a reality.”
Wipe away the issue
Last year, Kimberly-Clark-owned brand Huggies pledged to eliminate plastics from its baby wipe range in the UK over the next five years and launch a portfolio this year that will allow consumers to return packaging to supermarkets to be recycled.
Selfridges, however, has removed all single-use beauty wipes from its in-store Beauty Halls and its online offering, in a bid to reduce the plastic footprint of its customers' bathroom routines. All single-use wipes with plastics content have been replaced with a re-usable and recyclable alternative from luxury brands like Clinique and small brands such as Face Halo.
The environmental impact of wet wipes has become more widely understood by the general public, thanks in part through educational TV programmes. Hugh and Anita’s War on Waste, for example, dedicated an episode on sources of plastic that the “average British street” were not aware of – namely those found in wet wipes, microfibres from clothing and other kinds of microplastic.
The 60-minute episode saw the residents experience, first-hand, the environmental consequences of the 11 billion wet wipes sold in the UK every year, 90% of which contain some form of plastic. During a visit to a local sewage plant, they were confronted by 16 tonnes of waste wet wipes which had been flushed in the Bristol city-region alone over a 3.5-day period.
Companies are not currently required by either EU or UK to law to disclose the ingredients of the wipes themselves, only of the liquid used to coat them. However, this is set to change in summer 2021, when the EU’s new requirement for wet wipe makers to disclose their composition and to provide on-pack information regarding their environmental impact will come into force.