Fine to Flush Certification Scheme

WRc and Water UK provide testing and certification for wet wipes that are plastic free, fully break down, do not cause sewer or environmental damage, and are truly 'Fine to Flush'.

View certified products and manufacturers

£100 m

annually is spent on UK sewer blockage clearance, excluding the costs of emergency call-outs or spill clean ups, most of which are caused by misflushed wet wipes

100 yrs

is the time it can take for wet wipes to decompose in sewers or landfill if they are not tested and accredited by WRc under Water UK's Water Industry Specification

100%

of F2F certified wet wipes are truly flushable, fully break down sufficiently quickly, don't harm sewer systems and subsequent wider environment, and are plastic free

100+

certifications have been awarded to wet wipe manufacturers and retailers selling on the UK market, demonstrating their commitment to environmental improvement

Recognised industry standard

The Fine to Flush standard, or Water Industry Specification 4-02-06, is an award-winning certification that addresses a key priority of the water industry: to protect the environment from pollutions caused by improperly disposed wet wipes that lead to sewer blockages.

Developed by trade association Water UK and technical experts here at WRc, the Fine to Flush certification has been awarded to 100 leading wet wipe products and manufacturers, all branded with the Fine to Flush logo. This shows that they have been thoroughly tested to ensure they do not cause environmental damage from sewage pollution caused by a blockage or pump failure linked to their use.

WRc has long been at the forefront of research into the impact of wet wipes on water networks, having first published our 'flushability' research as a WRc Portfolio project 25 years ago. We are proud to be the designated testing facility for all products wishing to gain ‘Fine to Flush’ certification.

The Fine to Flush Journey

Back in 2018, no wet wipes sold on the UK market were tested to ensure they were safe to flush down the toilet. Fine to Flush is the first specification that tests wet wipe products for their suitability for disposal via sewer networks, ensuring that certified wipes do not contribute to the impact of plastics on the environment. Since the first product was tested in 2019, WRc and Water UK have awarded 100+ certifications to products and manufacturers committed to developing their wet wipes to meet the standard.

Concept

Previous attempts to address this key priority for the water industry - investment in network improvements, customer education, and advertising legislation - have had minor impacts on the goal to reduce harm from 'unflushable' wet wipes. 

Water UK published a Water Industry Specification in January 2019, defining the criteria required for a wet wipe product to achieve for it to be considered as truly ‘flushable’.

Delivery

The water industry, alongside Water UK and their technical consultants WRc, undertook a series of research projects to determine the causes of sewer blockages

This included looking further at the type and contents of wipes themselves, dissecting blockages to identify the cause, and establishing their journey through the sewer system at each stage of the disposal process, including treatment.

Innovation

WRc developed unique tests that represent conditions found in sewers and treatment facilities, thus significantly improving on previously used specifications.

These include disintegration tests which mimic sewer flow and ensure wipes don't negatively affect the operation or cause blockage of a sewer, pumping station, or treatment system. Composition tests confirm that all compliant products are plastic free.

    Outcome

    Now recognised as the most effective means for manufacturers and retailers to showcase to customers their commitment to the environment, the Fine to Flush standard has gained rapid and widespread adoption, demonstrating its trust and acceptance across industry.

    Further investigation has the potential for application of the standard to other products that are frequently flushed, to demonstrate that they do not harm the sewer system and wider environment.

    Get certified

    Over 100 leading wet wipe products and manufacturers have been awarded the Fine to Flush logo.

    We're always delighted to hear from manufacturers and product developers looking for further information on the requirements and test procedures or to discuss the most appropriate approaches to testing.

    Please get in touch via the contact form at the bottom of this page.

    Industry efforts down the drain

    Unfortunately, the progress that the water industry has made in recent decades to improving capacity and network issues, such as storm overflow systems, has been somewhat overshadowed by the growing nuisance of inappropriate disposal. This includes the disposal of fats, oils and grease (FOG) in the kitchen, and toilet flushing of wipes which do not sufficiently disintegrate.

    Flushing the 'unflushables' results in around 93% of all sewer blockages, and a large percentage of emergency call-outs due to jammed sewage pumps. These wipe-related failures are the main reasons for sewage waste flooding domestic properties and polluting our water courses and beaches. The cost to the water industry, which inevitably has to be passed on to the consumer, is significant.

    Bogged down by mislabelling

    Improperly flushed wet wipes, often misleadingly labelled as 'flushable', cause huge environmental, financial, and societal strain, which is entirely avoidable. Toilet (and other types of personal care or cleaning) wipes that don’t break down should be clearly labelled as ‘do not flush’ and must be disposed of via the bin. 

    Wipes that are used in association with toileting, for example moist toilet tissues, should be disposed of via the WC for public health reasons and therefore be made of materials that readily break down once flushed.

    U-bend on sewage pollution

    WRc's independent technical experts developed the specifications to assess wet wipes’ materials and behaviors that affects their performance in the sewer system. The Fine to Flush scheme testing process has seven tests which need to be passed before a product can be regarded as safe to flush. 

    These tests accurately mimic the forces found in the flows of a sewer to ensure products disintegrate sufficiently in an agreed travel time. Assessments ask whether the wipe clears the WC bowl or the drainline, and without snagging. Also, whether it disintegrates in the drainline or the in sewer, and whether it settles there. Composition tests determine the wipes' synthetic organic components (the plastic test), ensuring that certified wipes don't allow microplastics to bypass the treatment process system and enter the environment.

    A scheme flushed with potential

    This positive shift in the market driven by Fine to Flush, combined with improved customer awareness about non-flushable items, will lead to fewer sewer blockages and a reduction in their potential negative environmental impacts. With fewer blockages, water companies will be able to reprioritise investment, previously spent repairing sewers and tackling blockages, elsewhere to support customers or deliver projects to enhance the natural environment.

    With increasing awareness and uptake of this industry standard, we expect more products to demonstrate compliance across other sectors. Healthcare providers, such as the NHS, have already recognised the benefits of the Fine to Flush testing protocols. There is potential (with further investigation) for the standard to be applied to products, other than toilet wipes, that are frequently flushed to demonstrate that they do not negatively affect the operation of drains and sewers, and more widely in the environment.

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