In March 2022 we carried out research into how people dispose of wet wipes. Our research revealed a high level of confusion over the correct disposal of biodegradable wet wipes, with three quarters of parents inadvertently contributing to environmental damage and throwing them away in the toilet.
Can you flush wipes down the toilet?
Water companies Thames Water and Yorkshire Water invest millions in clearing ‘fatbergs’ and they blame conflicting labelling for the confusion. Yorkshire Water has recently called for a mandatory ‘do not flush’ labelling on all wet wipes, even those wipes claiming to be certified ‘fine to flush’. According to the water company, these ‘fine to flush’ wipes do not breakdown in the sewer network and can develop into blockages. Yorkshire Water research revealed, 38 per cent of people say they would flush biodegradable wipes as they will dissolve or breakdown faster with many believing that ’biodegradable’ means the same as ‘fine to flush’.
In fact, the process of biodegrading is interrupted when wipes are flushed through sewage pipes. The wipes cannot decompose, and ultimately contribute to ‘fatbergs’ and river pollution. In Sept 2021, environmentalists found 27,400 wet wipes on the foreshores of the Thames River.
Ben Roche, director of wastewater at Yorkshire Water, said: “Wipes labelled ‘fine to flush’ often indicate only one wipe should be flushed at a time, but often this is not followed or understood by customers, with less than half saying the logo indicated only one wipe should be flushed at a time. Even then, these wipes generally contain plastic so do not break down in the sewer as toilet roll does.”
Our own research, which polled over a thousand parents in the UK, found, 69 per cent, believe it takes six years for a biodegradable wipe to decompose. In fact, biodegradable baby wipes can take as few as 15 days to breakdown when disposed of correctly.
How to dispose of biodegradable wipes
We know we need to do our bit to educate our customers. During this year’s World Earth Day (22.04.22), we launched ‘WIPE, THEN BIN’, a clear call to action to educate parents how to dispose of biodegradable wipes in the most appropriate, sustainable way.
Dr Mark Little, our Managing Director explains: “Aqua Wipes need oxygen to biodegrade as quickly as possible. Ensuring wipes are exposed to the elements as much as possible, and not down the loo or sewage pipes, you can ensure that your used wipes are not contributing to environmental damage. Left exposed in compost conditions, Aqua Wipes will decompose in 15 days and importantly will not release any microplastics into the environment. The only correct way to dispose of Aqua Wipes is to place them directly into a compost bin or the general waste bin. You must never flush them down the loo.”
Aqua Wipes research also found that two thirds, 66 per cent of parents wrap soiled wipes into the dirty nappy after changing their baby. This will not provide the correct climate for a biodegradable wipe to decompose and even biodegradable nappies might still include certain materials that can compromise the process.
Aqua Wipes are proudly biodegradable, compostable and plastic free. Please follow and support our ‘WIPE, THEN BIN’ campaign to help educate more people how to dispose of biodegradable wipes correctly.
About our research
The research was undertaken on the Instagram platform targeting UK parents with specific interest in caring for babies and toddlers and who have a conscious attitude to their lifestyle, during March-April 2022
1,197 parents responded to the question, ‘Do You Know How to Dispose of Aqua Wipes’. 866 parents agreed they should be disposed of in the Toilet; 330 agreed they should be disposed of naturally.
1,286 parents responded to the question ‘Do you know how long it takes Aqua Wipes to decompose’. 404 parents agree it is six weeks; 882 parents agree it is six years.
2,403 parents responded to the question ‘After changing your baby’s nappy do you wrap the wipes you used into the dirty nappy to throw away?’. 1,574 wrap wipes into the nappy; 829 do not wrap wipes into the nappy