Wet wipes have become a modern convenience – a festival essential, a staple for new parents and a regular fixture in many people's beauty routine, but they're terrible for the environment – 93% of all blockages in UK sewers are caused by wet wipes wrongly deemed "flushable", according to Water UK.
So, wet wipes that are truly environmentally friendly have been a long time coming – and next month shoppers will finally be able to buy the first "fine to flush" wet wipes. Organic brand Natracare is launching tissue wipes that can be flushed down the loo without contributing to the UK's fatberg problem, the Guardian reports.
The wipes, which are both plastic-free and compostable, will be sold in Waitrose, Ocado and independent health shops.
Currently, many wipes sold as "flushable" in the UK don't break down quickly in the sewer system – some contain plastic or wood pulp despite carrying a "flushable" label, which is based on standards laid out by the European industry body Edana. "You’ll see on the supermarket shelves many types of wipe claim to be 'flushable'," Natracare says on its website, adding that – importantly – "water authorities don’t agree with these claims. The wipes might disappear from your sight but sadly they don’t break down, causing blockages that are costing UK taxpayers £100 million a year!"
However, the new "fine to flush" symbol, which was announced last month, is more rigorous, according to Water UK, which represents the country's water and sewerage companies. Water UK says its logo is more credible than Edana's existing standard because it can only appear on wipes that don't contain plastic – meaning they will break down and won't cause blockages.
Water UK's new symbol is considered a major boon to the fight against fatbergs, the congealed masses of fat, personal hygiene products and nappies that have been flushed down UK toilets. "We’ve all seen the impact of fatbergs, and we want to see fewer of them," said Michael Roberts, the chief executive of Water UK, referring to environmental damage including blockages and even flooding.
"Improving the environment is at the core of what the water industry does, and the new 'fine to flush' standard that we’ve created will make it easier for consumers to buy an environmentally friendly product instead of one which clogs up drains and sewers." Here's hoping more beauty brands follow suit soon.