Future 20 spotlight: Twipes
Twipes break down in water in just 3 hours.
Wet wipes are an environmental menace, causing havoc in our sewers and oceans. Not only do they create huge waste build-ups called fatbergs which then block our sewers, they also release microplastics into our oceans. Lots of companies are now branding their wipes as ‘flushable’, yet these are the same wipes which are causing environmental damage. Twipes are one of the companies on our Future 20 programme; they have created an innovative solution to the wet wipe problem. Their wipes are not only made without any plastics, they also disperse in water back to their original matter in just 3 hours – stopping fatbergs and harsh chemical or plastics from entering the oceans.
Twipes is going from strength to strength, with co-founder Ellenor McIntosh recently featured in the manufacturing & industry category of Forbes 30 under 30. We spoke to them to find out more:
How did you come up with the idea for Twipes?
Funnily enough, Twipes was founded in a pub! Co-founders Ellenor McIntosh and Alborz Bozorgi already had a background in science and business respectively, but after a conversation where Bozorgi complained to McIntosh about wet wipes blocking his pipes, there was a lightbulb moment. Like most of the public, McIntosh and Bozorgi hadn’t been fully aware of just how impactful ‘flushable’ wet wipes could be, and McIntosh set to work on a safer and eco-friendly alternative.
Flushable is marketing lingo for it will make it down the pipes when flushed. It doesn’t translate to biodegradable or plastic-free
And you’re about to launch? How exciting!
Yes, indeed! Twipes has enjoyed b2b success with several restaurants, hotels and gyms, but now we are ready to introduce ourselves to consumers and really change the wet wipe industry for the better.
Can you explain the science behind what makes Twipes biodegrable?
Twipes are manufactured in the traditional way most wipes are produced so they are sturdy enough for traditional use. The only difference is that ours contain no harsh chemicals or alcohol. However, as Twipes are made from wood pulp it means they break down easily. No harmful microplastics are released, no pipes are blocked!
Lots of wet wipes are branded as ‘flushable’ – can you explain why they’re actually not flushable at all?
‘Flushable’ is marketing lingo for, ‘it will make it down the pipes when flushed.’ It doesn’t translate to biodegradable or plastic-free. Water UK has reported that we spend £100m a year getting rid of fatbergs in our sewers, and a significant amount of wipes are typically found in over half of all sewer blockages. So the facts speak for themselves -‘flushable’ means very little. Even the few wet wipes that claim to biodegrade, it takes over a hundred days and it does not mean they don’t release harmful micro-plastics when they do!
In changing our attitude towards the planet, we must change our habits and products
What have you learnt since Twipes first became a business back in 2015?
Don’t think your job is your job. It is so much more. From packing boxes, to hiring and firing staff, you will do it all. You will design flyers, you will talk to investors. Just because you’re CEO doesn’t mean you aren’t above anything. Regardless of how you see yourself or how much fun you have with it, the nitty gritty stuff has to get done too!
What have you found challenging as a start-up, and has being part of Future 20 helped with those challenges?
Dealing with things that can’t be accounted for like production issues and customer complaints are always a challenge! As a start-up, we have to be very creative with our budget. The fact that Future 20 has provided a free working space for us has been incredibly valuable and helped us put our funding into other endeavours. On top of that, the contacts and opportunities it has given Twipes to find investors has been wonderful. Even things that are seemingly small, such as a room and a white board has provided us with our ‘draw my life’ videos on social media!
Do you think that lots of people still aren’t aware of the environmental consequences of traditional wet wipes?
Yes, unfortunately due to marketing gimmicks such as ‘flushable’, it can really confuse consumers. I also think the action of using a wet wipe in the same manner as toilet tissue, which is biodegradable, can lull people into a false sense of security in their habits. Like cotton pads, cotton buds, plastic straws and other single-use items, we have relied on these for generations and this learned behaviour comes from a place where manufacturers didn’t taken take into account the effect on the planet as we do today. In changing our attitude towards the planet, we must change our habits and products.
What’s next for Twipes?
We will be launching to consumers shortly and we are very excited for what this year brings for us.
You can read more about Twipes or order your very own pack of wipes by visiting their website at twipes.co.uk