Flushable Wipes

February 28, 2014

The market for flushable wipes has undergone a transformation in recent years as the industry works to develop standards on what should and should not be flushed.

Who's to Blame

Flushable wipes have been blamed on sewage clogs both in the U.S. and Europe but evidence shows that the true culprits are items that have no business being flushed. An analysis of debris recovered from clogged pipes found that flushable wipes comprised under 10% of the mess. Bigger offenders includes hand towels, tissues and napkins and wipes that are no supposed to flushed.

Code of Practices

In 2013, INDA and EDANA jointly released the third generation of flushability taskforce, which were developed by a joint taskforce of wipes industry executives. Formed more than a decade ago to combat the negative attention the wipes market was receiving in the wake of sewage problems in North America and Europe, the guidelines require third-party testing to deem a wipe substrate flushable.

Flushable Technologies Expand

Suominen’s Hydraspun is composed of wood pulp (78%), Tencel (20%) and a bicompent fiber. It is currently used by Procter & Gamble and Rockline Industries in North America and Kimberly-Clark in Europe. Suominen announced last year it would invest €2.5 million at its Windsor Locks, CT facility to improve its offerings in flushable wipes and other value added segments of the wipes market. Other substrate options for flushable wipes include Buckeye’s Airspun, a non triggered airlaid, and Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle, which is 100% pulp with an acrylic binder.

Machinery opens doors, and drains, for wipes

In October, nonwovens made by Voith Paper and Truetzschler Nonwovens, a maker of hydroentanglement lines, passed the official INDA and EDANA flushability tests to be certified as flushable. These nonwovens made through a combination wetlaid and hydroentangled products with a high level of wet strength, according to the companies. Also focusing on honing its flushable wipes technology is Andritz Perfojet, which offers a wetlaid hydoentangled substrate containing fluff pulp in this market.

When Not to Flush

Because not all wipes are designed to be flushed, INDA and EDANA developed a “Do Not Flush” logo as part of the code of practices developed with the third generation of the flushability guidelines. Wipes manufacturers are urged to display this logo on all products that have not been certified flushable to avoid consumer confusion at the toilet.

Moist tissue dominates

Moist tissue is the largest segment of the flushable wipes segment and comprises wet toilet paper products like Cottonelle, Charmin Freshmates and Scott moist wipes as well as a number store brand products. Other market segments include kids wipes, like Kandoo, feminine hygiene wipes, adult incontinence wipes and bath wipes. According to INDA, the size of the North American toilet tissue and toddler training wipes market is about 21,400 tons, growing between 6-6.5% per year.