Labour MP Fleur Anderson says that as well as causing environmental damage, the cost of clearing wet wipes from blocked drains ends up on our water bills. She is proposing a new law to ban the sale or manufacture of wet wipes that contain plastic.
Commenting on the proposals, John Williams, Chief Technical Officer at Aquapak, said: “We are pleased that the issue of the environmental damage being caused to our sewerage systems and waterways by wet wipes is being raised. Current wet wipe design focusses on use rather than disposal and we need to move to innovative materials to answer the problem whilst allowing continued use of this very useful product.”
“Our patented technology means there is now a solution to the problem. Aquapak’s Hydropol material allows the creation of completely flushable and biodegradable wet wipes on existing manufacturing equipment, whilst also using the functional properties of Hydropol – high tensile strength, controlled water solubility, excellent resistance to oils and greases. It gives wet wipe manufacturers not only an environmentally friendly product, but one which is highly functional and acceptable to the consumer.
“Therefore an outright ban on plastic in the manufacturing of wet wipes isn’t necessary; rather the focus should be on the selection of innovative and enabling materials to maintain the useful properties of wet wipes whilst resolving the problems of environmental damage, blocked drains and preventing associated costs from being passed onto consumers.“
HydropolTM — all the benefits of plastic without causing problems in rivers or sewers
Aquapak has developed a novel biodegradable, non-toxic and water-soluble polymer called HydropolTM which is three times stronger than alternatives and is designed to be used in existing thermo-processing equipment, giving it a wider range of applications. HydropolTM enables nonwovens to retain their strength whilst enabling flushability and safe biodegradation.
The base plastic is currently used for dishwasher tablets, ingestible pill casings and soluble stitches. HydropolTM ‘s resistance to low temperature solubility and high barrier to elements adds functionality, providing a wider range of uses. It can be recycled, re-pulped, composted and is distinctively compatible with anaerobic digestion. Furthermore, if unintentionally released into the natural environment or waste water system, HydropolTM – which is non-toxic to the environment and marine safe — will dissolve and subsequently biodegrade, leaving no trace.
Blown film products commercially available and made from HydropolTM include garment bags, ESD bags, organic waste disposal bags and laundry bags for infection control. Its solubility makes it easy to separate from other materials, simplifying the confusing recycling options that exist for different packaging.
Extrusion coatings and laminates for paper/board applications are at customer production trial stage, including a number of home delivery and ecommerce applications, packaging for dried pet food, snacks, cooked meat and convenience food applications.
Nonwoven fibres for applications such as wet wipes and cellulose combinations for thermoformed trays are currently in development and laboratory scale spunbond and meltblown fibres have been developed with collaboration partners such as NIRI.