Flushable wipes range from adult moist toilet tissue and tod- dler toilet care to feminine hygiene wipes, and the sector is growing all the time. The total flushable wipes market is
estimated at 55,720 tons, or about $1.4 billion in sales according
to The Future of Flushable Wipes to 2018, a new market report
from Smithers Apex.
These sales are mainly driven by convenience, hygiene, performance, cost and customer eco-perception. But what is next for
the market as a whole, and what developments will we see over
coming years? According to Smithers Apex, there are four top
things to look out for in the flushable wipes industry.
A change in nonwoven substrates
The choice and selection of nonwoven substrates for flushable
wipes is changing. Why? Mainly due to concerns that historical
problems with performance in wastewater systems will lead to
unrealistic or excessively difficult governmental regulations. For
example, ‘flushable by size’ products have caused problems in the
U.S., the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.
Equally importantly, petroleum-based non-biodegradable
fibers have rapidly increased in price (as has petroleum) to the
point that they are now approaching and even surpassing historically expensive biodegradable fibers like rayon and cotton. What
was once a trade-off between price and biodegradability has now
become much closer and much less of an issue.
Wood pulp, even near its historical high price, still costs
less than 50% of the least expensive petroleum-based fiber
used in wipes. While the prices of wood pulp, rayon and cotton may increase with time, most experts agree that petroleum-based fibers will definitely increase in price with time,
and at rates exceeding those of non-petroleum-based fibers.
This has led to a widespread rethink of the substrates used in
Increased use of wood pulp and cotton
Following on from this, a second important trend is the increased
use of wood pulp and cotton in flushable wipes. Wood pulp is,
and has been, an obvious choice for cost reduction. Historically, airlaid has had an advantage in the ability to incorporate
very high levels of wood pulp—commercial products at 85-90%
are common—while spunlace and airlace have been limited to
around 50% wood pulp. Today, 60-70% wood-containing spun-laces are commercial, and Suominen’s Hydraspun dispersible
substrate hydroentangled wetlaid product used in private label
moist toilet tissue contains almost 80% pulp.
Wood pulp is the most sustainable raw material used in wipes,
and cotton in both airlaid and spunlace nonwovens is still moderately popular with consumers. Producers are also becoming
more interested as the price differential between cotton and
other fibers like Rayon and polypropylene diminishes; regenerated cotton is even more sustainable, and available at a lower cost
than virgin cotton used in nonwoven wipes. It is expected that
this material will become more common in the flushable wipes
market in the future, as more suppliers produce it.
A move away from ‘flushable by size’ to truly
Most importantly, there has been a marked move away from‘flush-able by size’ to truly dispersible wipes. In 2001, when Kimberly-Clark attempted to accelerate market growth in the adult moist
toilet tissue market with the introduction of Cottonelle Rollwipes,
it was the first major commercial dispersible wipe. Their major
The Next Steps for
New report says four key trends are driving the market for
flushable wipes forward.
By Smithers Apex