Flushed with success: Adelaide firm makes first certified-flushable wipes

In a world-first, South Australian wet wipes manufacturer The Hygiene Co has gained certification that its flushable wipes are actually flushable.

Corey White and Phil Scardigno

The Hygiene Co co-founders Corey White and Phil Scardigno. Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

Under a new joint Australian and New Zealand standard recognised by Standards Australia, a local manufacturer of wet wipes has officially proven its flushable wipes are just that.

Amid recent news that Adelaide suburbs are still having sewers blocked by un-flushable wet wipes, The Hygiene Co hopes SA residents will cotton on to their products that break down in water when agitated.

Made at Woodville North, the flushable wipes are part of the company’s stable of eco-friendly wet wipes. While not all are flushable, the remainder of its CleanLIFE-branded wipes are plastic-free and created to break down over time.

They’re also award-winning, with the company last week receiving a Good Design Award Winner Accolade in the Social Impact category for its wipes’ positive impact on the environment.

The business was co-founded by Phil Scardigno and Corey White and was a pivot from the former founder’s waterproofing products business Gripset done during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pair transformed the Gripset plant into a medical-grade wipes manufacturing facility and have been pumping out wipes for nearly a year now.

Scardigno hopes the certification will set CleanLIFE’s wipes apart from non-flushable, imported competitors.

“We’re trying to work with the water authorities to make sure that the certification is something that the big companies like Sorbent and Kleenex – because they’ve got a flushable wipe – are meeting as well,” he said.

“Because what that does is it prevents cheap imports making claims that they meet Australian standards, because we’ve got to be certified to it and there’s a certification process which they’ll issue with a specific logo.”

Kimberly Clark Australia also makes flushable wipes which meet the new standard.

The Hygiene Co rolls of paper

Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

InDaily visited The Hygiene Co’s manufacturing site last month, where the co-founders demonstrated how their flushable wipe breaks down. Made with wood pulp, the wipes fall apart in water but are sturdy enough to remain intact prior to being flushed.

“The standard is a great thing that has been introduced because SA Water has shared with us that things like sanitary nappies are often found blowing up pipes and obviously wipes are in there which creates fatbergs,” Scardigno said.

“But if you’ve got a standard that’s met then you avoid that concern because it’s regulated by the water authorities.”

The co-founders explained that the process to receive the certification was extensive, and involved assessment of the wipes by a third-party auditor “so there’s no doubt that you have a product that meets the requirements”.

“It changes now how retailers ethically source product, because if you know that you that you’ve got a flushable wipe that’s met the standard, you’re not putting something on the shelf that potentially could create an issue,” Scardigno said.

“Flushable opens up the door for a lot of applications – we’re bringing out a toilet cleaning wipe, we’ve got personal hygiene, feminine hygiene – it makes sense if you’ve got a product that you can flush because not many people walk out the toilet and put it in the bin.

“It’s an exciting space we think, and it’s not what all our business is but it’s becoming a definite key focus for us moving forward.”

SA Water senior manager of infrastructure planning and strategy Daniel Hoefel said he was pleased to see The Hygiene Co “leading the way” by embracing the new standard.

“Like our fellow water utilities across Australia and the globe, we continue to see wet wipes regularly flushed down into the sewer network – which don’t break down like toilet paper – and it costs us millions of dollars each year to remove these unflushables from our pipes and treatment plants,” Hoefel said.

“The standard provides manufacturers with the criteria for determining if certain products are suitable to be flushed, and provides requirements to manufacturers for correct and informative labelling to help consumers easily identify products that can safely be put down the loo.

“As more manufacturers adopt the standard for their products, and the community’s awareness of this initiative grows, we’re confident the number of wet wipe-related blockages will move in the right direction.”

The flushable certification is one element of CleanLIFE’s success. The other is its commitment to being plastic-free.

Scardigno said the amount of plastic-based wet wipes that Australians go through every year was “crazy”, and said that government action was needed to promote alternatives and reduce the reliance on non-degradable products.

He also said that many Australians were unaware that most wipes are made of plastic.

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“We really need action on a government level – both federal and state – because it’s a huge problem and once people are aware of it they just don’t use it,” he said.

“We had doctors and nurses telling us that they didn’t realise that what they were using hourly was plastic, and now that they know they’ve changed their ways.”

The Hygiene Co raw materials

Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

Retailers are also turning to companies like The Hygiene Co to produce wipes. Though the pair couldn’t name the retail partner they were working with as the company is currently making white-labelled product for a “major supermarket”.

“I think retailers are concerned about the potential of a greenwashing target that could be on their backs,” he said.

They added that they received a confidence boost in the form of “one of the largest Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre grants” in order to purchase the machinery they use which helps The Hygiene Co produce up to 30,000 packs per day.

This includes the white-labelled products and CleanLIFE’s extensive range of scented wipes including baby wipes, floor wipes, bathroom wipes, kitchen wipes, hand wipes and more.

“We have wipes for every category, and we’re going to go into the cosmetic and personal space as well because we can do that, and that’s what the plant has been set up for,” Scardigno said.

As for the Good Design Awards win, Scardigno said he was pleased with the national recognition.

“For Good Design Australia to recognise the innovation in design and innovation in our work is incredible,” Scardigno said.

“The phenomenal rate of single-use plastic heading to landfill in wet wipes was exactly what shook Corey and me into action. Now we want everyone to know that we’ve done the hard work for them.

“Australians are increasingly looking for more sustainable products, and our plastic-free range exactly meets that need.”