Wastewater operators across America and Europe are facing challenges associated with clogs due to various causes, such as aging infrastructure, “fatbergs” (coagulations of fats, oils, and grease) and the improper flushing habits of many consumers. Numerous findings, most recently the 2017 Water UK Study, show consumers are flushing too many products not designed to be flushed. A 2016 NYC Study found that 98% of what was collected from wastewater treatment plant screens consisted of non-flushable items, including baby wipes, non-flushable paper such as paper towels, feminine hygiene items and household cleaning wipes.
To help consumers and communities reduce the burden to their wastewater infrastructure, INDA and EDANA are introducing the updated Code of Practice: Communicating Appropriate Disposal Pathways for Nonwoven Wipes to Protect Wastewater Systems, Second Edition, 2017 (Code of Practice for labeling). This new edition requires that non-flushable wipes display the “Do Not Flush” symbol on wipe packaging such that it is viewable on shelf at the point of purchase and visible each time a wipe is removed from its dispenser package. Pilot programs conducted by wastewater organizations in cooperation with INDA have demonstrated that focused consumer awareness campaigns can reduce the improper flushing of baby wipes by ~50%.
“The prominent ‘Do Not Flush’ symbol on non-flushable products like baby wipes will help raise awareness of the importance of why these products should be thrown in the trash – not flushed,” says Pierre Wiertz, General Manager of EDANA.
Flushable wipes are designed to be compatible with household pipes and with municipal and home wastewater collection and treatment systems. Flushable wipes are designed to stay strong in use, have a mechanism to weaken after flushing, and degrade biologically in wastewater treatment systems. However, baby wipes, cleaning wipes and other non-flushable wet wipes maintain their strength after being flushed and can be a leading cause of clogs.
The new Edition Four of the Guidelines for Assessing the Flushability of Disposable Nonwoven Products serves as a resource for manufacturers and brand owners to ensure their flushable wipes are compatible with existing wastewater infrastructure. Edition Four updates certain test methods and criteria for passing. These tests are grounded in significant research and testing carried out by INDA members and technical experts with extensive input from wastewater professionals.
“This update enhances the guidelines for flushable products to ensure continued compatibility with wastewater infrastructure,” says Dave Rousse, president of INDA.
The guidelines include seven flushability assessment tests related to performance in pipes, pumps, and both household septic systems and municipal wastewater treatment systems. Products may only be labeled “flushable” if they meet the demands of all seven tests.
Edition Four of the Guidelines and the new Code of Practice for labeling are available to download at no charge from both the EDANA and INDA websites. Full and individual test methods are free to INDA and EDANA members and available for a fee to nonmembers. For more information about flushability issues, please visit www.responsibleflushingalliance.com.
Last month, the two associations applauded an Australian agency's decision to fine wipes maker Pental for falsely labeling its cleaning wipes as flushable.