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dads & mums

what does ‘biodegradable’ mean and are biodegradable wipes flushable?

2 minutes

03/11/2020

Head to your local supermarket and you’ll find an abundance of baby products with ‘biodegradable’ on the label, but what does biodegradable actually mean? And how is it different from other eco-friendly terms like compostable and recyclable? We explain…

  • 1. What does biodegradable mean

  • 2. What is biodegradable plastic

  • 3. Biodegradable vs compostable vs recyclable

  • 4. Are biodegradable baby wipes flushable

  • 5. How biodegradable products should be disposed of

  • 6. Are WaterWipes products biodegradable

1. What does biodegradable mean?

When a substance or object is biodegradable, it can be broken down naturally by temperature, sunlight or microorganisms such as bacteria. This means it won’t clog up landfill forever.

For a product to be certified biodegradable, it must decompose into natural elements within a reasonably short period of time – typically under a year.

2. What is biodegradable plastic?

While most things will break down eventually, some take a lot longer than others. A paper towel will decompose in two to four weeks1, for example, but a plastic drinks bottle made from petroleum by-products can take upwards of 450 years 2.

Biodegradable plastics, by contrast, can take just three to six months to decompose fully – if conditions are right. Mainly made from plant-based sources, they are designed to break up when exposed to the presence of microorganisms.

3. Biodegradable vs compostable vs recyclable – what’s the difference?

  • Biodegradable

    As described above, products that are biodegradable decompose naturally when exposed to temperature, sunlight or microorganisms.

  • Compostable

    If something is compostable, it means it is made of organic matter and can be broken down quickly into non-toxic, nutrient-rich soil conditioner (i.e. compost). To achieve this, however, special composting conditions are required.

  • Recycling

    Recycling is the process of converting used waste (for example, glass or plastic drinks bottles) into new products and materials.

4. Are biodegradable baby wipes flushable?

Flushing baby wipes – even biodegradable ones – down the toilet is a big no-no. They take a long time to decompose in a sewerage system environment and consequently clog up pipes and machinery. They are also harmful to wildlife, who often mistake them for food.

5. How should biodegradable products be disposed of?

Biodegradable products are designed to break down on landfill, so should be disposed of with your general household rubbish.

6. Are WaterWipes products biodegradable?

Yes, from January 2021 our baby wipes are now made with biodegradable material. Our wipes still contain minimal ingredients to clean you or your baby’s skin, but now they’re plant-based and better for the planet.

*We’re still working hard on making our Facial Wipes & Nose to Toes bathing wipes biodegradable, but we’re hopeful they’ll be joining our other wipes very soon.

Other jargon you're not sure about? Check out our eco-jargon-busting dictionary video.

Now that you know what biodegradable means and whether WaterWipes products are biodegradable, why not check out our other articles on our Parenting Hub where we discuss a range of topics, from family work and life balance to baby eczema.

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