Following the recent publication of Water UK’s ‘FINE TO FLUSH’ specification we would like to address some of the ambiguity surrounding testing methodologies and logos.
Nice-Pak are members of EDANA (the International Association for the Nonwovens and Related Industries) and follow their ‘GD4 Guidelines for Assessing the Flushability of Disposable Nonwoven Products’ when developing wipes designed to be flushed.
Our range of flushable moist toilet tissue products fully comply with GD4. Plastic-free and containing 100% natural fibres, they have been designed to break down in the sewer environment.
Whilst there is no legal definition of the tests which products must pass in order to be marketed as ‘flushable’ in the UK, GD4 is enshrined in law in other parts of Europe, including Belgium and Spain.
In October 2018, Water UK suspended cooperation with EDANA and wipes manufacturers on developing a single standard for assessing flushability (based on the industry standard GD4). On January 11 2019, Water UK released details of their ‘Fine to Flush’ initiative and the related ‘Water Industry Specification’ WIS 4-02-06.
Nice-Pak, EDANA and other members were disappointed to learn of Water UK’s publication of the WIS and new ‘Fine to Flush’ initiative. We consider the launch of a separate protocol unnecessary and possibly counterproductive as we expect it to confuse the market.
Nice-Pak continues to promote GD4 as the proven industry standard for flushable wipes and strongly advocate the industry guidelines for correct disposal and labeling of non-flushable wipes.
Nice-Pak has taken a pioneering role in working with customers to comply with the INDA/EDANA Code of Practice on ‘Do Not Flush’ labelling to increase consumer awareness and promote correct disposal. The Code of Practice encourages logo placement at 1) near the point of dispense 2) on the shelf package without having to open the pack. See baby wipe pack example below:
Recent press coverage has focused heavily on the role of flushable wipes in sewer blockages.
During 2017 Nice-Pak participated in the biggest ever in-depth study of sewer blockages in the UK, partly funded by DEFRA (the UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). The study concluded that the majority of blockages were caused by inappropriate disposal of non-flushable products such as baby, cosmetic and surface wipes. In fact, less than 1% of the blockage material was identified as originating from products designed to be flushed, dispelling the myth that flushable wipes are the primary reason for blockages of this type.
This strongly suggests that the challenge is not one of product design but rather of influencing consumer behaviour in the appropriate disposal of non-flushable products.
Whilst it is widely acknowledged that sewer blockages have multiple contributory factors such as fats, oils, grease, condoms and feminine hygiene products, it is also worth noting that much of the coverage of the resulting report also overlooked the fact that this particular study focused on wipe-based blockages only.
Meanwhile, the age, capacity and infrastructure of the sewerage system is also a huge consideration, with the majority of the UK sewerage network allowing both surface water and sewage to combine. When the capacity of the system is exceeded, the excess is often allowed to bypass wastewater treatment centres and spill untreated into nearby watercourses and costal waters (DEFRA 2012*).
*Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2012), “Waste water treatment in the United Kingdom: Implementation of the European Union Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. 91/271/EEC”
Nice-Pak takes its responsibilities seriously and has representatives on both EDANA’s Wet Wipe Working Group and Communications Committee. Consumer awareness programmes around correct disposal methods are critical in changing behaviours and we are playing an active part in delivering this.