Wetwipes are flushable? No they're not!

Date posted: 13 November 2018

New research, commissioned by the water industry but carried out independently, puts paid to the notion that wetwipes can be flushed down the loo. The findings show that, despite many wipes on supermarket shelves being commonly labelled and sold as flushable, their claims of flushability are misleading the public. All wet wipes sold as “flushable” in the UK have so far failed the water industry’s disintegration tests.

Wet Wipe on Pebbles

We want to to see clear labelling on wet wipes, and will be asking for retailers who sell products claiming flushability to ensure that their products will pass these flushability tests devised by WRC

Dr Laura Foster,
Head of Pollution
MCS

Wipes cause blockages. Surprisingly the so called “fat bergs” that become lodged in UK sewers are only made up of 0.5% fats, but an astonishing 93% wet wipes. £90 million is spent by the water industry each year on clearing blocked drains alone, ultimately adding costs to customers water bills, according to Water UK. Many wet wipes are known to contain plastics such as polyester, and enter the environment.

MCS has campaigned for several years to see action on the labelling of wetwipes, as sewage contimanation of waterways and beaches often results from blocked pipes, many of which are caused unnecessarily by items such as wet wipes being flushed. In 2017, MCS collected over 10,000 signatures a petition to the wet wipe industry body EDANA asking them to ensure members removed plastic from their flushable products and that flushable wipes complied with UK Water Industry standards.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Pollution at MCS, said “We want to to see clear labelling on wet wipes, and will be asking for retailers who sell products claiming flushability to ensure that their products will pass these flushability tests devised by WRC. These tests mimic the conditions found in UK sewers and ensures that the product does not contain plastic, which unfortunately is still the case for some flushable wipes. We ask that water companies to publish these guidelines as soon as possible, as many retailers have already indicated they wish to change to products which meet the new guidelines.”

“The public purchase these products thinking that they will not cause any issues down the sewers and are shocked to find out they may contain plastic and not break up sufficiently in the sewers. In fact, 83% of the British public, questioned in a YouGov poll for MCS, support the removal of the claim of ‘flushable’ from all wet wipes if they do not meet water industry standards for what can be safely flushed down the toilet without causing blockages. That’s more than 4 out of 5 people, with most support coming from those aged over 55 years”.

Data from the 2017 MCS Great British Beach Clean revealed a startling 94% rise in the number of wet wipes found on UK beaches.

Read more about how, when you flush them, wet wipes turn nasty.

Actions you can take

  1. Join the Plastic Challenge
  2. Help us stop the plastic tide
  3. Join a beach clean
  4. Find out more about nurdles
  5. Read our microbead ban position statement
  6. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2018
  7. NGO microbead briefing paper
  8. Learn about Deposit Return Systems

Did you know?…

On UK beaches levels of litter have doubled in the past 20 years

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded almost 50% fewer bags on beaches

To date, our beach cleans have removed over 11 million pieces of litter

HPMA Campaign