At the session, INDA president Dave Rousse moderated a panel of experts who briefed attendees on what’s next for the wipes industry in its fight to remove the stigma from flushable wipes.
Over the past decade, wipes stakeholders, led by INDA in the U.S. and EDANA in Europe, have worked steadily to come up with testing and labeling requirements for wipes being marketed at flushable. These efforts were done amidst a barrage of negative press and litigation efforts that blame flushable wipes for sewage problems—when in fact non-flushable baby wipes and consumer paper products like paper towels and tissue—have been proven to be more at blame.
So where are these efforts now?
Unfortunately, the finalization of the fourth edition of flushability guidelines (GD4) has stalled—due to disagreement between wipes companies and members of the wastewater community; however, some recent progress has been made in the battle.
One key highlight is a new Code of Practice which increases the prominence of the Do Not Flush logo on all wipes that are not in compliance with current flushability guidelines—which represent about 93% of wipes on the market—and prohibits baby wipes from being marketed as flushable no matter what. As these efforts discourage more consumers from flushing non-flushable wipes, it is hoped that flushable wipes will shoulder less of the blame for sewage clogs.
Another coup in the fight for flushability is advanced technology—developed by nonwovens producers around the world—that has allowed new generation flushable products to disperse more quickly than ever before. In fact, most of the products marketed as flushable today exceed the standards of the GD3, according to Rousse.
Still, at least for now, the industry remains stuck at GD3, which Rousse describes as scientifically sound—there is no evidence that a GD3 compliant wipe has caused damage in any sewage system. As it parts ways with members of the wastewater industry, who will continue to fight their own battle, the nonwovens industry will continue to fight litigation, legislation and the almost daily media assault that is blaming flushable wipes for sewage problems throughout the U.S. when in fact the role of flushable wipes in sewage clogs is decreasing (down from 7% to 2% since 2010) even though sales volumes of these materials is increasing. Meanwhile, nonwovens producers interested in doing business in the flushable wipes market will continue to roll out products that are stronger yet more easily able to dissipate than ever before.
Karen Bitz McIntyre