An image of a wet wipe going in the bin to represent the fine to flush removal.

Removal of Fine to Flush: A Closer Look at What Brands Should Consider

You may have seen the recent headlines on the retraction of the ‘fine to flush’ certification scheme, against the backdrop of government reflection on commonly littered single-use plastics. With just a few days left until this shift comes into place, it could hold profound implications for brands across various industries, necessitating a re-evaluation of their production practices, marketing strategies, and commitment to eco-consciousness.

As one of the UK’s most established wet wipe manufacturers, Guardpack take a closer look at the specifics and share our thoughts on what brands could consider going forwards.

Understanding Fine to Flush

Initially introduced with the well-meaning intention of reducing pollution, protecting aquatic ecosystems and to address the growing concern of non-biodegradable materials, specifically wet wipes, sanitary products and other disposable items were labelled ‘fine to flush’. This implied that they could be safely disposed of via flushing down the toilet without adverse effects on plumbing and sewage systems, or the environment.

Growing Concerns

Despite its good intentions, the rule faced criticism and challenges from various stakeholders. Some argued that the guidelines were unclear. This lead to confusion among consumers about which products were truly safe to flush or in what quantities. Others pointed out that the enforcement of such a rule was challenging and costly for governing bodies already struggling with waste management issues.

The fine to flush rule also sparked debates about personal responsibility versus corporate accountability. While consumers were encouraged to be mindful of what they flush, the guidance available for manufacturers was also to encourage the fine to flush campaign by printing the logo on the back of packaging. However, this printing wasn’t a legal requirement for manufacturers; it was up to them to provide guidance to brands and advise whether or not to include the logo on their product packaging.

Is Biodegradable Flushable?

Even today, a common misconception is that wipes labelled biodegradable are safe to flush down the toilet. This, however, is not the case. Despite thinking they are managing waste responsibly, consumers are causing unintentional damage to plumbing systems and the environment.

Biodegradability is different to being compostable. When a material is biodegradable, it can undergo decomposition. It breaks down into a few different elements with the help of microorganisms. It does not break down into a single organic material. The correct and proper way to dispose of biodegradable wipes is by putting them in a waste bin.

Biodegradable wipes that are compostable in soil undergo a different process. These are designed to break down into pure water and carbon dioxide. This forms part of the photosynthesis cycle and returns the fibres back to nature. The best place to dispose of compostable in soil wipes are through commercial centres. Therefore, you should check with your local authority if they are happy to accept wipes, before you put them in your compost bin. Alternatively, home soil burial is also possible, but the process will take a little longer than commercial facilities.

Removal of Certification

Sky news recently reported that the Environmental Department estimated that between 2.1-2.9 billion wet wipes end up in Britain’s waterways each year, and clogging up sewers and creating huge ‘wet-wipe reefs’ and contributing to ‘fatbergs’ in waterways.

In response to mounting concerns over environmental damage and infrastructure strain caused by non-flushable products, regulatory bodies have now announced the retraction of the fine to flush rule in March 2024.

This signifies a pivotal shift in waste management standards. It emphasises the need for products that are truly biodegradable, plastic-free and align with our commitment to a better environment as a nation.

What Brands Should Consider

As a result of the removal of the fine to flush scheme, there are a few things brands should now consider to ensure they are in alignment with the revised guidelines and environmental responsibility:

Product Innovation: Brands should prioritise biodegradable alternatives, as opposed to plastic based options. This could include wipes that are designed to disintegrate rapidly or alternative products that serve similar purposes but don’t pose as many environmental risks.

Clear Labelling: Clear and accurate labelling is crucial. Brands should ensure their products are clearly labelled with their ingredients and environmental impact. Clear instructions of proper disposal should be highlighted.

In response to government reflection on commonly littered single-use plastic, many respondents found the ‘fine to flush’ labelling was confusing to customers. This made behavioural change difficult as it actively encouraged consumers to flush.

Education and Awareness Campaigns: Where appropriate, brands should invest in educating consumers about the consequences of flushing non-flushable items and the importance of proper disposal. Half of respondents to the recent government reflection were not even aware of the ‘fine to flush’ standard.

Collaborate with Industry Professionals: Working with regulators, local authorities and wet wipe specialists, like Guardpack, to ensure product and packaging compliance with any regulations or guidelines is essential. This collaboration can help brands to stay ahead of any changes in legislation and demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility.

Research and Development: Continued research and development into new materials and technologies can help brands maintain at the forefront of sustainability and environmental protection. Investing in R&D aimed at creating more eco-friendly products can give brands a competitive edge in the market, whilst delivering products better aligned to societies requirements.

At Guardpack

As a leading reputable wet wipe manufacturer, we strive to stay ahead of the curve. We can confidently advise and offer all of the above considerations. From ideation to conception, Guardpack can help you expand your remit and produce products that encourage sustainability, using our wealth of knowledge, selection of eco-friendly materials and range of liquid doses.

If you’d like to hear more about our sustainable wet wipe and packaging options, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with Guardpack today by filling out our contact form, emailing us at trade@guardpack.co.uk, or speak to one of the team today on 01245 505807.

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