To Flush or Not to Flush

By Karen Bitz-McIntyre, Editor | September 4, 2012

One of the key developments shaping the wipes market today is flushability. With the third generation of INDA/EDANA’s Guidance Document for Assessing the Flushability of Nonwoven Consumer Products just about complete, manufacturers are poised to show off their technology and to determine how to present it to the marketplace.

SCA has already made a jump on this with its TENA flushable adult cloths, which received third-party flushabilty certification this spring. This certification allows SCA to market outer-packaging accordingly, helping consumers differentiate between flushable and non-flushable products.

These guidelines, and the NSF certification program, are both designed to help decrease consumer confusion when it comes to which wipes to flush and which not to flush. They were born out of several instances where wipes were blamed—sometimes unjustly—for sewer clogs and other negative effects on wastewater facilities.

INDA and EDANA first began working on the guidelines in 2004 with a special flushability taskforce featuring 31 companies. The first set of guidelines were released in 2008 and updated in 2009. The most recent changes simplify the guidelines and make them easier to follow.

In fact, members of the taskforce have always said these guidelines are more about education than anything, allowing the wipes industry to take control of how flushable wipes should be differentiated from non-flushable ones. And, as these guidelines take route, nonwovens makers who do business in wipes have some pretty interesting options in the flushable wipes market.

According to experts there are three main nonwoven substrates that are positioned to meet these guidelines. These three—Kimberly-Clark’s ion triggered airlaid, Suominen’s Hydraspun (spunlace and wetlaid base) and Buckeye’s Airspun nontriggered airlaid—can all be described as dispersible products and are all currently commercial, demonstrating potential to meet all of the current INDA/EDANA requirements for flushability.

All three of these products are making inroads in a number of markets, most notably the flushable wipes market as adult moist toilet tissue, which truly would not exist if it were not for the flushable wipes technology.

Experts say that flushable wipes only comprise 5% of the total wipes category and this market could provide a nice boom for the market as a whole, once these standards are adopted and put to use.
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