INDA, the Association of Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, today announced that the city of Wyoming, Minnesota dismissed its suit against several flushable wipes manufacturers in which the city alleged damages to the municipal infrastructure from flushable wipes. According to court documents filed in the lawsuit, it appears that the city had not experienced any damage caused by any clogs, increased maintenance costs, operational issues or incurred any costs associated with the repair and/or replacement of any equipment caused by flushable wipes. Notably, Wyoming agreed to drop its lawsuit without receiving any compensation.
This action follows that a similar situation in 2017 when the City of Perry, Iowa settled a similar suit against flushable wipes manufacturers without receiving any compensation for any alleged damages. In 2016, two of the defendants in the Perry case were able to resolve another flushable wipes class action lawsuit in Florida (Sweeney v. Kimberly-Clark, et al.), where the consumer plaintiffs also agreed to drop the class action lawsuit without compensation.
“The withdrawal by the city of Wyoming and last year’s settlement terms of the Perry litigation corroborate what years of testing and field collection studies have shown: flushable wipes are not causing municipal clogs or increased maintenance,” says Dave Rousse, president of INDA. “To date, despite sensational headlines, no wastewater operator has offered any public evidence that its maintenance issues are impacted by wipes marketed as “flushable” and passing the industry assessment tests.”
Recent studies point to similar findings. A 2017 study in the U.K. found material contained in clogs in several municipal wastewater systems contained less than 2% by weight of products that could be identified were flushable wipes. A 2016 independently conducted collection study in New York City found that more than 98% of the items examined were not labeled or designed to be flushed, but rather included significant amounts of baby wipes, surface cleaning wipes, paper towels, and additional trash items. Other collection studies conducted in Maine and California have yielded similar results.
INDA recognizes that wastewater operators are facing real challenges associated with clogs due to diverse causes, such as aging infrastructure, kitchen grease and flushing of items not designed to be flushed. Flushable wipes passing industry assessment tests are part of the solution to those challenges because they are designed to break down in properly maintained sewer and septic systems. Banning or penalizing these innovative products designed to be flushed will only worsen the problems faced by municipalities because consumers will likely turn to non-flushable products– like baby wipes – to address their toileting needs.
INDA and its partner organization, The Responsible Flushing Alliance (RFA), along with the flushable wipes industry, remain committed to educating consumers about proper disposal of non-flushable products through improved labeling and cooperation with wastewater operators to establish effective consumer-facing campaigns on the consequences of flushing non-flushable products.