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Serious solutions to the potential UK wet wipe ban

With recent UK government plans to eliminate plastic waste including single use products, a potential ban on wet wipes has just been announced.  

Although wet wipes are marketed as ‘flushable’, most are made of polyester and other non-biodegradable materials causing environmental damage.  

So what is the solution?  

Allia Serious Impact, a range of programmes, workshops and mentoring to support the growth of impact ventures, has supported two ventures who may have the answer to this global and local challenge by developing innovative alternatives to wet wipes. 

The UK has already banned microbeads, introduced the 5p plastic bag charge, and is working towards a ban on plastic straws and a deposit-return scheme for plastic bottles. Wet wipes are next on the list as a cause for concern, responsible for 93% of UK sewer blockages with huge economic consequences, and causing environmental havoc, often ingested by marine life.   

Banning wet wipes will certainly have a positive impact on the environment, but a ban is only a realistic option if affordable alternatives are offered. Allia Serious Impact, which supports impact entrepreneurs to start up, grow and scale, has supported two ventures with innovative alternatives to wet wipes through its expert business support accelerator and incubator programmes.  

Twipes participated on the Allia Serious Impact 9 month Incubator programme in East London which supports ventures to create opportunities and growth in the East London area. They have developed an eco-friendly toilet wipe which is free from harsh chemicals (including alcohols and parabens) and does not dry out. Most importantly, they are fully dispersible in water within just three hours – meaning they are truly flushable as opposed to traditional ‘flushable’ branded wipes that can take up to months or even years to disperse.  

Ellenor McIntosh, co-founder of Twipes said: Twipes are excited for this new phase of the environmental breakthrough, the current ban on wet wipes looking to be put in place, means that not only will plastics be cleared out of our oceans but it gives Twipes’ biodegradable product a fighting chance to make a real difference and it is with huge thanks to the Allia Serious Impact Program, that we are able to make this all possible.” 

In Peterborough, another alternative to wet wipes has been developed by Andy Speechly who joined the Allia Serious Impact accelerator programme as an early stage impact venture. After creating various similar products including the dignity commode (which is now sold worldwide) and the Aquarius bidet for people with mobility issues, Andy was inspired to develop a low cost bidet he’s called Wetwash. It does a better and cheaper cleaning job, with no contributions to pollution or blocking sewers and much less toilet paper being used.  

Andy took his prototype to Anglian Water who awarded him a £10,000 grant to create an exhibition model and bring the product to market. He has been developing Wetwash in the state of the art Innovation Lab inside the Allia Future Business Centre Peterborough.  

Equipped with a variety of tools and equipment in a makespace setting for participants on the programmes, Andy says that this extraordinary resource cannot be praised too highly: “The Innovation Lab and the help and business support from the Accelerator Programme have combined to help me bring my invention closer and closer to a marketable and presentable product.”  

Both Twipes and Wetwash tackle the environmental problems caused by wet wipes and offer suitable alternatives that reduce environmental impact – exactly the kind of innovative alternatives that Allia endeavors to support.  

Paul Hughes, director of Enterprise support at Allia says:  We are delighted to be helping startups such as Twipes and Wetwash who are creating innovative solutions to major environmental challenges. Allia and our Serious Impact programme align its work to the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development – both Twipes and Wetwash’s products are at the forefront of ensuring ‘responsible consumption and production’.  We are proud to support impact organisations that contribute towards addressing these incredibly important goals.”  

To find out more about Allia Serious Impact and the support that is available in East London, Peterborough and Cambridge thanks to our wonderful partners and funders, take a look at our Serious Impact website.