To Flush, Or Not To Flush?

By Tim Wright, Editor | June 12, 2013

Seems like a silly question but in fact flushability is a major issue facing the nonwoven wipes industry.  We live in a disposable age, with convenient products, which can be used and thrown away. While wet wipes have been blamed for clogging up waste water systems, these products are in fact only a small part of the problem. Many other products, like facial tissue or paper towels are much more frequently thrown in the toilet instead of the garbage can, causing havoc in the sewers. And the wastewater management industry is not happy about it.

When they’re flushed these items don’t just disappear down the pipe, but clump together to block sewers. When blocked, sewers can flood and millions of dollars are spent every year on cleanup. Wipes aren’t the only culprit, and it is important to note that there are wipes on the market that are ‘dispersible’ as well as flushable.

Regardless, wet wipes are a high priority on the wastewater management industry’s target list, and if it has its way, wipes that are causing the problem will be removed from shelves.

Legislation has already been drafted by California, New Jersey and Maine to aggressively move in this direction and industry trade groups have been taking pains to block this legislation before it becomes a huge headache, and unnecessary expense, for wipes manufacturers.

With the World of Wipes (WOW) conference taking place in Atlanta this month, INDA and EDANA will launch a third edition guidance document for assessing the flushability of nonwoven disposable products. In addition to streamlining testing criteria for assessing flushability of wipes, this guidance document contains a Code of Practices, outlining labeling requirements for both flushable wipes and wipes that should not be flushed.

As part of her annual report on the Consumer Wipes market, Nonwovens Industry senior editor Karen McIntyre compiled a side bar story that begins on page 44 and goes into detail about the new guidelines and the problem facing the industry.

In a nutshell, if manufacturers of wipes make products that do not meet the Flushability Guidelines, these products need to be labeled properly as such in a manner that communicates a clear message to the consumer. While the industry cannot hold the consumers hand and walk them to the trash can, it can inform them properly. Not doing so will cause problems for all participants in the wipes market.

INDA president Dave Rousse likens the problem to a potential legislative “freight train” heading right at the wipes industry. The goal is for INDA and EDANA’s awareness campaign to get the attention of the industry and halt any such threats by having all participants jump on board and adhere to the guidelines. If you don’t, you might find your business flushed down the toilet.


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