Media comment: flushable wipes

7 September 2015

Consumer Magazine asked FGC to respond to issues surrounding the issue of flushable wipes:

  • Does FGC have any sales data on this product category? We’ve seen some sales forecasts for the US and the UK which indicate it’s a growth category.
  • Does FGC have a position/comments on the negative criticisms that these products don’t break up like regular toilet paper and so can cause issues in some pipes/water systems? The criticisms have been both locally (NZ) and internationally.
  • What steps is the industry taking in this category? Are there any plans to “redesign” products so they disperse more easily or is industry happy that the technology is acceptable?

Katherine Rich responded:

We don’t have any sales data, but it’s certainly a growing category as more New Zealanders use the products more and more.

FGC has a working group looking into the issue of flushable wipes because we are aware that some concerns have been raised.

In July, FGC approached the Master Plumbers Association to discuss the issue and to hear first-hand about their members’ views. They told us how flushed matter can get caught on either tree roots that have grown through clay pipes used in older housing or on the joins of clay pipes. It was very interesting to hear what some people will try to flush - anything from babies’ nappies and sanitary protection, to coffee grounds and kitty litter.

We are trying to determine what role flushable wipes might be playing in reported drain blockages, because it’s quite clear that a lot of non-flushable wipes – for example, cleaning wipes, make-up removal, and baby wipes – are being disposed in this way, even though packs might say “do not flush”.

In terms of flushability claims, all companies are very aware that they are required by New Zealand law to be able to substantiate their claims and we know that our members do this.

There are different international standards and testing regimes to test flushability claims. FGC has over the last few months reached out to relevant members and non-member manufacturers to share information and work on these issues. We are aware that some members are reviewing their messages on packs about usage (both flushable and non-flushable) to make sure they are as clear and informative as possible.