Biodegradable wipes

I’ve come across Reynard dry wipes which claim to be biodegradable. I’m wondering whether they really are following on from a previous choice article where flushable wipes were discredited.

One of the never stated advertising metrics for any biodegradable claim is “How long and under what conditions does it biodegrade?” There is also a lot of purposeful confusion with companies using biodegradable vs degradable, and they mean very different things.

My understanding is flushable wipes meet sewerage system requirements for movement down the pipes in a laboratory context (that does not reflect the real world), and given long enough time they apparently will biodegrade or at least degrade, just not in the number of days that are important in a practical sense.

For context, fast food burgers are food that would be expected to biodegrade but there is at least one googleable report that one looks like it was freshly made at only 14 years. It is not that the burgers will not rot and biodegrade, it is the conditions required for that to occur. It is not so simple as just being biodegradable

Our investigations into flushable wipes showed that the industry “standards” used by “flushable” wipe manufacturers are not reliable - these wipes are not flushable by any realistic assessment. We aren’t aware of any that genuinely meet sewerage system requirements, and water authorities state that “flushable” wipes are not at all suitable for the sewerage system.

Biodegradability is another matter entirely and we haven’t assessed any such claims. A wipe might be biodegradable in landfill (and might take months or years to break down), but that still doesn’t mean it’s flushable.

Agree with @cbarnes.

The real question in relation to any one use wipes (nappy, cleaning, cosmetic etc) is do you really want to buy something which is used once and then disposed of and becomes waste in a landfill?

Unless the wipes are second use material (such as from recycled fibres/paper), I personally steer clear of them. They also usually contain chemical preservatives/stabilisers/fragrances which are known to cause dermatological reactions in many people.

It is also cheaper and more ‘environmentally’ friendly to use things like mircrofibre cloths, recycled paper towels, towels or washers for the same purposes as wipes. They can also be wet is a wet wipe use is needed. They can be readily washed and reused scores of times. Drying in the sun ensures that they are sterilised for future use.

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I have colitis which is a form of ibd. I use these wipes when I have a flare up. They have been a life saver for me. I know the controversy surrounding them but for people like me who have an autoimmune condition that affects the colon these wipes make a difference to our quality of life. I wouldn’t recommend them for the normal person but there are a large group in the ibd community who are grateful they were invented.

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Thanks @dominiquedwards - you make a valid point that wet wipes are genuinely useful to many people. But nevertheless there is a risk of blockage to your own plumbing and to the sewerage system in general if they are flushed. Until a company comes up with a genuinely flushable wipe, the best disposal option for these is in normal waste (just as with non-flushable wet wipes used on babies, for instance). Not very convenient or pleasant, I admit.

Probably, if wet wipes were only used by people with a genuine need, they’d be no particular problem to the sewerage system (though blocking domestic pipes could still be a risk).

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Yes, as Chris said, please don’t flush them! If you do need to use them for medical reasons, do so - but dispose of them responsibly, not down the toilet. If you don’t need to use them, don’t use them. :slight_smile:

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I only use them when absolutely necessary and use the minimum. Realistically its not easy to not flush them without going into too much detail. I suggest you google chrons and colitis and you will understand. Its painful etc and my main concern at that time is to make the situation as painless as possible. I would prefer that only people with IBD used them and they were advertised specifically for us rather than for the general public.

A plumber friend of ours used to delight in telling us a story of how when called upon to clear a blockage, he presented the lady of the house with a rubber-gloved fist-full of what he referred to as ‘tea bags’, although in reality they were items used by women periodically. The nasty bugger delighted in the embarrassment caused.

When our kids were young there were only cotton nappies. No problems, as people were not so squeamish then. Well, only a problem once, when I left a bucket full of them for too long before rinsing (it was my job as delegated nappy slave) one summer and the flies got to them before I did.

Maybe try your own test by placing them in a bowl of water alongside toilet paper as a comparison and see how long it takes for them to breakdown.

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You can actually buy enzymes that will help clean out your sink and toilets if you use them regularly and they are natural. I suggest soaking them for an hour though to make sure they break up a bit and they do make your pipes stink for a day when you use them but they basically clean out the pipes.

After the dialogue has long settled on the environmental impacts of wipes, voila.


Yep, no issue with using a “Wet” wipe or having a bidet but as for the wet tissues I want them to be bio-degradable and environmentally friendly (a harder ask). I know anything we dump into the environment can become an issue but if it can at least breakdown by biological action in a “reasonable” time then it is at least better than plastics and other non bio-degradable products entering the ecosystem with no reasonable time period for their breakdown.