No wipes are ‘flushable’: wrong claims may mislead consumers

Adapted from ‘Be Good A**Holes’ from My Green Pod. Article available at: https://www.mygreenpod.com/articles/be-good-aholes/

The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has ordered the discontinuation of an Andrex advertisement after refuting the company’s claim that their wipes were ‘flushable’. The Andrex website asserted that their products met international industry standards on flushability of wipes and were designed to decompose in moving water.

Despite this claim, the ASA determined that the advertisement violated the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing by misleading consumers. The ASA’s ruling has been lauded by many due to the potentially negative environmental implications of these wipes. Rae Stewart, Director of Corporate Affairs for Water UK explained that only products passing the ‘Fine to Flush’ standard should be labeled as ‘flushable’, and all others should be discarded in the toilet.

The vast majority of wet wipes available for purchase contain plastic components and are not biodegradable. When these wipes are flushed, they can lead to clogs in sewers and pipes called ‘fatbergs’ that cause sewage systems to overflow, potentially contaminating other water sources. The Marine Conservation Society documented more than 14 wet wipes per 100 metres of coastline in 2018.

To dispel the misinformation perpetuated in the Andrex advertisement, the environmental NGO City to Sea has engaged in a counter-campaign of sorts, encouraging people to ‘be good a**holes’ by properly disposing of wet wipes and only flushing the 3Ps (pee, poo, and paper). While some wipes are truly biodegradable, City to Sea advocates for putting all wet wipes in the bin until every major manufacturer can guarantee biodegradable products, in order to ensure that water systems remain plastic-free.

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