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Two Waitrose products join the fight against fatbergs as they get official ‘Fine to Flush’ approval

Two Waitrose & Partners toiletry products have successfully achieved Water UK’s official ‘Fine to Flush’ standard. This means that the two products – Fragrance Free and Lightly Fragranced moist toilet tissues – have passed strict water industry tests which prove they will break down in the sewer system and won’t cause blockages and fatbergs.

Waitrose & Partners can now use the official ‘Fine to Flush’ certification symbol on both products’ packaging, the first supermarket chain with approval to do so. The first product to achieve the ‘Fine to Flush’ standard was Natracare’s moist tissues earlier this year (also available in Waitrose & Partners stores).

Water UK is now calling on other manufacturers and retailers to follow Waitrose & Partners lead and ensure all products which might be flushed meet the ‘Fine to Flush’ standards. In addition, Water UK wants other companies to be clear with their customers in their advertising and product packaging that any wipes which don’t meet the ‘Fine to Flush’ standard should not be flushed into the sewer system.

The ‘Fine to Flush’ standard was created by Water UK on behalf of the water and sewerage industry in January 2019 as part of the fight against blockages and fatbergs caused by products which are not supposed to be enter the sewer system – such as toiletry products like wipes, and fats, oil and grease. The technical name for ‘Fine to Flush’ is Water Industry Specification (WIS) 4-02-06, and the full details of the specification are on the Water UK website.

Although some toiletry products are clearly labelled ‘do not flush’, there are many wipes on the market labelled ‘flushable’ which do not break down quickly when they enter the sewer system, and which would not pass the stringent tests involved in the ‘Fine to Flush’ standard. These are the type of products which create fatbergs, and their labelling can cause confusion amongst consumers, increasing the problem of sewer blockages. The creation of the official ‘Fine to Flush’ standard lets customers know which products will break down in the sewer system instead of contributing to fatbergs and causing blockages and sewer flooding.

There are approximately 300,000 sewer blockages annually, costing the country £100 million. Thousands of properties suffer sewer flooding caused by these blockages every year in the UK, creating misery for homeowners and businesses and leading to high clean-up bills and increased insurance costs. Sewer flooding also has a major impact on the environment.

To achieve the ‘Fine to Flush’ certification manufacturers can have their products tested by WRc, the Swindon-based independent experts who developed the technical specifications for flushability in conjunction with Water UK. If they pass the tests, the wipes manufacturers will receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol from WRc.

Rae Stewart, Director of Corporate Affairs at Water UK said:

 “This is a big step forward in the fight against fatbergs, and Waitrose & Partners should be congratulated on achieving the official ‘Fine to Flush’ standard. Improving the environment is at the core of what the water industry does, and the ‘Fine to Flush’ standard makes it easier for consumers to buy an environmentally-friendly product instead of one which clogs up drains and sewers. If a wipe isn’t ‘Fine to Flush’ it should go in the bin.”

Head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners, Tor Harris, said:

 “Wet wipes have become increasingly commonplace in UK households so it’s an issue we have to tackle and have been working on with our suppliers for some time. We know we still have more work to do, but this is a big step forward and gives us a platform to build on for the rest of our range.”

Lead Consultant for Sewerage at WRc, Andy Drinkwater says:

 “WRc has long been at the forefront of research into wet wipes and their impact on wastewater networks. The world’s first Water Industry based flushables testing specification was introduced by WRc in 2007. The ‘Fine to Flush’ specification is the third generation and WRc is proud to be the designated testing facility for all products wishing to gain ‘Fine to Flush’ certification.”

The water and sewerage industry has consistently said that only the 3 Ps should be flushed down toilets – pee, poo and toilet paper. But the addition of the ‘Fine to Flush’ standard means the industry also regards those products which have the official accreditation as acceptable for toilet disposal.

For more details on the testing process please email finetoflush@wrcplc.co.uk