Analysis and Commentary

Wiping away a 25,000-tonne national problem

Analysis and Commentary

Today we hear from the first nominee for our Australia’s 50 Most Innovative Manufacturers list. Brent Balinski speaks to The Hygiene Co.’s co-founders Phil Scardigno and Corey White about solving a waste problem they say is 30 times worse than plastic straws.

Unless there’s a medical, scientific or forensic reason for it, sales of plastic straws are mostly banned around Australia.

An Australian Marine Conservation Society roundup from last month points out that the only places you can still buy such a straw are the Northern Territory (with a ban coming in 2025) and Tasmania. 

Wet wipes though, another single-use item – and traditionally made of polyester or polypropylene – are no problem. Worse still, according to The Hygiene Co. co-founder Phil Scardigno, is that the amount of wipes thrown out by Australians each year – an estimated 25 million kilograms – represents 30 times that of plastic straws.

“Straws are a harder plastic, and that image still sticks in the mind of everyone, with the [straw] hanging out of a turtle’s nose,” Scardigno tells @AuManufacturing

“Whereas wet wipes are a soft plastic, and people don’t realise that. But that is starting to change somewhat.” 

Scardigno’s company is mindful of a growing number of consumers worried about the environmental impact of throwaway products, and they are currently in Foodland stories in South Australia and Chemist Warehouse outlets nationally.

The Hygiene Co. is manufacturing an Australian first: plastic-free, biodegradable and compostable wet wipes for a range of uses, from floors to shopping trolleys to medical. 

Scardigno and co-founder Corey White are expecting Australia to follow a movement underway in the UK, where, for example, chains including Boots and Tesco moved to plant-based wet wipes last year.

White and Cardigno celebrate their first order

“It’s not happening [here] because there isn’t awareness around plastic wet wipes,” White tells us. 

“But [the UK] is showing that the retailers can actually take action and force change in the market.”

Other figures based on the company’s research point to the environmental appeal of their wipes: 96 per cent of wet wipes (which are three-quarters water by weight) sold in Australia are imported, representing 9,000,000 kilograms in greenhouse gas emissions through shipping water.

The company has its origins in the worst of the Covid era, when Scardigno – who previously ran a construction products manufacturing business – got a call from the government to help produce items such as wipes for aged care providers.

He learned such products were almost totally imported.

“At the back end of that I met Corey… The big thing for us was to look at a plastic-free option, because of the amount of plastic waste,” Scardigno recalls.

The pair are currently preparing to launch their new Industry 4.0 production line at the end of April, an occasion which will include the premiere of a documentary on Scardigno’s entrepreneurial adventures. 

The new facility was assisted by $644,728​ in funding through the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre’s Commercialisation Fund.

When it comes to the topic of innovation, the Adelaide-based pair emphasise being market-led and problem-driven.

It’s a mindset really, in terms of always talking to the customer and  listening to the feedback,” offers White.

“Innovation for me is really about talking to the market and continually asking questions: ‘Hey, what could we do, how could we improve this?’ And that leads to joint innovation… rather than an internal ‘Let’s deliberately innovate here.’”

“We found there was this problem in the market and we just felt someone had to do something about it,” adds Scardigno.

“We saw that as a big part of the solution, to give industry and consumers an alternative…”

In this special episode of @AuManufacturing Conversations with Brent Balinski, one which we’re running as part of our quest to identify Australia’s 50 Most Innovative Manufacturers, you can hear more from Scardigno and White about their approach to problem-solving.

(We apologise for some slight issues with audio quality in this episode. There were IT hiccups and we had to resort to an emergency backup recording.)

Episode guide

1:08 – About the company and its origins in the worst of the Covid era. 

2:16 – White joins the business.

3:08 – 96 per cent of wet wipes are imported. Who makes the other 4 per cent?

5:02 – Counting the tonnes of plastic wipes going into landfill.

5:55 – The weight of wet wipes thrown out represents 30 times that of plastic straws.

6:50 – The company’s products and commercial partners at this stage.

8:35 – What the UK is doing and why Australians haven’t followed yet.  

9:19 – Bamboo and viscose are imported due to a lost ability to make fabrics out of fibre in Australia. 

11:24 – What innovation means at the company

13:23 – Australia’s first certified flushable fabric, and how they worked with customers to identify uses for it. 

15:58 – Planning for a launch of their new automated line next month.

16:50 – The cash management difficulties in manufacturing versus running an import business.

Pictures: supplied

Further reading



Is you company one of Australia’s 50 most innovative manufacturers? We want to hear from you.



Australia’s 50 Most Innovative Manufacturers is a new campaign by @AuManufacturing. It has been made possible by the generous support of  MYOBSMC Corporation Australia, and Bosch Australia Manufacturing Solutions. Be sure to check back at this website for regular updates  including profiles of nominees and other information.




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