Two years after introducing comprehensive flushability guidelines for nonwoven consumer goods, and six years after starting the process of defining flushability, INDA/EDANA and their member companies continue to work tirelessly to improve the guidelines through dialogue and collaboration with stakeholders in the waste water industry through Europe and USA.
INDA and EDANA first introduced “The Guidance Document on the Flushability of Nonwoven Consumer Products” in June 2008. The document contains guidelines representing the first-ever initiative to provide companies with a comprehensive framework for testing disposable products to determine their flushability.
To be defined as flushable, a product must: clear toilets and properly maintained drainage pipe systems under expected product usage conditions; be compatible with existing wastewater conveyance, treatment, reuse and disposal systems; and become unrecognizable in a reasonable period of time and be safe in the natural receiving environments.
The flushability guidance document contains flow charts of key questions that need to be answered for each route a product could follow post-flushing. The questions in the flow charts are answered by conducting a series of tests. Acceptance criteria for each test and for each question have been set to determine product compatibility with each step of the disposal route in order to determine if a product is flushable according to the definition.
Companies must have specific knowledge about product technology, usage behaviors and understanding of conditions and equipment in geographical regions. Each company is then responsible for its own flushability claims. INDA and EDANA cannot certify flushability claims. According to INDA president Rory Holmes, “Our point of view is that this is a technical tool for manufacturers and wastewater management people to work with their customers to educate them on what should be flushed,” he said
Prior to the launch of the guidelines in 2008, there was confusion both among consumers and manufacturers—over the definition of flushability and what products should be disposed of via the toilet. To help inform consumers, the organizations developed a “Do Not Flush” packaging logo for wipes which are assessed as Not Flushable by the guidelines to inform consumers that these should not be flushed down the toilet.
INDA/EDANA continue to invest time in qualifying laboratories in US and Europe to run the Guideline Tests to help ensure that manufacturers have full access to flushability testing for their products and to encourage increased usage of the guidelines by industry .
INDA and member companies have also closely monitored proposed legislation in California that would regulate the labeling of flushable products. The legislation, if adopted, would prohibit a company from labeling a product flushable or sewer and septic safe unless it had been tested and documented to meet the acceptance criteria for toilet, drainline, sewage pump, septic tank, aerobic system and municipal wastewater collection and treatment systems as published by INDA. A significant part of the work in California was engaging with local waste water agencies to gain a better understanding of their concerns that prompted the proposed legislation and then to understand how the flushability guidelines would help to address such concerns.
Collaboration in Europe by INDA/EDANA with wastewater stakeholders continues to clarify operational concerns. Work is ongoing to understand how the guidelines can be improved with input from wastewater treatment stakeholders to build greater consensus for the guidelines between all interested parties.