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

2 minutes


With the world more focused on sustainability, you're probably seeing more and more 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. WaterWipes are now USDA Certified Biobased and will biodegrade within 4 weeks in a landfill. This means that by choosing WaterWipes you are making a small step towards helping to reduce your overall impact on the environment. "

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. Traditional baby wipes can take up to 100 years to break down in a landfill.

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. Our new biodegradeable WaterWipes biodegrade within just 4 weeks in a landfill.

What some might now know is that baby wipes often contain plastic that fills our landfills and pollutes our oceans. WaterWipes now also are 100% plastic-free.

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.

Our new biodegradable WaterWipes are now 100% biodegradable, compostable and plastic-free. We are currently developing a solution for recyclable packaging as well, while maintaining the quality of our medically sealed product.

4. Are biodegradable baby wipes flushable?

Flushing baby wipes – even biodegradable baby wipes – 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 garbage.

6. Are WaterWipes products biodegradable?

Yes, from April 2022 our baby wipes on North America are now made with biodegradable material so now WaterWipes has 100% biodegradable, plastic-free, cruelty free, vegan and compostable baby wipes. 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.

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:

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  1. Save On Energy. How long it takes for trash to decompose. Available at: Last accessed 29th April 2021.

  2. Farmers' Almanac. How long until it's gone? Estimated decomposition rates of plastics. Available at: Last accessed 29th April 2021.

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