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Down the toilet – A glance at flushable wipes and dispersible nonwovens

The need for wipes that could be safely flushed down the toilet has been identified some 20 years ago, primarily as a result of demand from Japan where the wastewater system was constructed using narrow diameter pipes.

Suominen’s HYDRASPUN® Dispersible products were invented, patented and introduced to the market in the 1990’s and since that day have effectively been the global market leader in flushable wiping substrates. The market grew quite steadily but then, in early 2000’s, with the introduction of moist toilet tissue, the market expanded massively and a number of other companies joined in supplying this growing market.

Non-flushable wipes cause controversy

There is growing public interest in the US, Canada and a number of European countries in the challenge we face from people flushing items which are not designed to be flushed down the toilet, leading to costly blockages in wastewater systems.

The nonwovens industry had to face up to this challenge and we at Suominen have been at the forefront of taking up that challenge.

To meet the challenge head on, Suominen launched new HYDRASPUN® Dispersible Plus nonwoven which disperses in water three times faster than the original HYDRASPUN® products. HYDRASPUN® Dispersible Plus clearly passes the industry flushability assessment test protocol, and it has the strength required for convenient use, it disperses reliably and is biodegradable in an aquatic environment.

The nonwoven’s industry bodies INDA and EDANA with the assistance and participation of a number of member companies, including Suominen, worked hard to produce testing guidelines to prove the safety in flushing specifically designed flushable wipe substrates. Even stricter new version is under construction. In addition, work is ongoing to develop recognized international standards for flushability under the ISO standardization process.

Direct communication with wastewater authorities in global markets and amongst end-users is being undertaken in order to educate people that only those products designed to be flushed should be put down the toilet and that all other wipes should be disposed of in other suitable ways. This will reduce the number of blockages that occur. 

Suominen is stepping up also on flushable products. Our own investment in Bethune, SC, USA will ensure continuous improvement in the design and manufacture of flushable nonwovens to best meet the needs of a rapidly growing global market.