Entrepreneur Billie Jo Hohepa-Ropiha and New World Regent owner Eric Rush with the B-DÉT product she came up with as a solution to stopping wet wipes going into wastewater pipes. Photo / Tania Whyte
A Northland entrepreneur may have found an answer to the damage caused by the millions of wet wipes flushed down toilets and clogging up wastewater treatment plants.
In New Zealand the damage and removal of the wipes from wastewater pipes cost $16 million a year.
Kiwi journalist turned entrepreneur Billie Jo Hohepa-Ropiha is on a mission to stop the environmental destruction caused by wet wipes and has developed a natural pump foam that transforms toilet paper into a gentle cleansing wipe.
It's the second foray Billie Jo has made into bathroom products after she and her father Thomas Hohepa invented the Kiwee Lifter - an automatic toilet seat lifter.
Billie Jo spent more than two decades as a journalist and the idea for her latest venture was born about 20 years ago.
She said BDÉT is an eco-friendly alternative to wet wipes and the first-of-its-kind product range is available online and in 25 supermarkets, including Regent New World, in Whangārei.
Billie Jo said the idea came to her when she realized there was a gap for a natural and eco-friendly soothing wash to pair with toilet paper.
"When I had children, I started thinking about wet wipes and the damage they were doing to our ecosystem. And as much as I enjoyed the convenience of the wipes, when I examined them further, I was shocked at the damage they cause to our waterways and environment. Wet wipes are the major cause of fatbergs in our pipes" she said.
"As an alternative I started to apply moisturiser to toilet paper, and that evolved into BDÉT which is an eco-friendly foam spray that turns rough toilet paper into a cleansing wipe. The quick-drying foam is like a bidet in a bottle.
"It seems so obvious. We have lotions for every part of our body, cleaners to take off mascara and makeup, but nothing to clean the most sensitive part of our body, and the part that needs it the most."
She teamed up with an Auckland laboratory, and after many months of development, the product range made in NZ and dermatologically-tested by the ISPE Institute in Italy was ready to take to market.
"The enthusiastic feedback from everyone who tried it is all positive, and I received orders before we were ready to sell the foam wash."
Regent New World owner Eric Rush said it's good to see a locally developed solution to a growing problem.
''Billie Jo is a Northlander who has come up with a good idea and wants to make a difference so it was a no-brainer when we were asked [if his store would stock the product],'' Rush said.
''It's selling pretty well too.''
That didn't surprise Billie Jo who said her market research indicated there was a definite market for such a product and all the feedback she received was positive.