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Municipal wastewater-system clogs mostly caused by items not labeled "flushable"


Last updated 11/30/2019 at 10:34pm

SACRAMENTO – With clogs and problems in California’s wastewater systems continuing to make headlines, INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry and the Responsible Flushing Alliance are raising awareness that many clogs in wastewater systems persist because items not labeled “flushable” are being flushed. These items include baby wipes, disinfecting wipes, hand and face wipes, feminine care products, washroom paper towels and other products not labeled as “flushable.”

Forensic studies undertaken to find the causes of wastewater system clogs and accumulations have found that 98-99% of the materials that are actually causing clogs are mostly hygiene products not intended to be flushed. These studies were conducted by municipal wastewater agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom to better understand precisely what categories of items are flushed, or in stormwater combined systems, washed into their systems and contributing to system upsets.

“It is important that we all do our part to protect plumbing and sewer systems by looking for the ‘flushable’ label before flushing any wipe. Anything without that label should go in the trash,” Dave Rousse, president of INDA, said. “INDA promotes proper disposal by encouraging manufacturers to use the universal ‘Do Not Flush’ symbol, which is found on most baby wipes and surface cleaning wipes.”

As compared to baby wipes and other non-flushable wipes, flushable wipes are uniquely manufactured with exclusively tree- or plant-based fibers and lose strength quickly once flushed and disintegrate throughout properly maintained sewage systems. Flushable wipes – which do not contain plastic – were invented in the late 1990s after consumer usage data indicated many households without diapering-age children were buying baby wipes. Given that the invention was of a product specifically designed to be flushed in place of one not designed to be flushed, flushable wipes are actually a major part of the solution to proper sewer system operation.

Industry’s use of the “flushable” label is grounded in extensive product testing using methods developed over the years with input from municipal wastewater experts. INDA’s flushability assessment uses seven rigorous tests to ensure products are compatible with household plumbing systems and wastewater treatment infrastructure. Industry’s labeling Code of Practice requires a “Do Not Flush” symbol prominently on the package of wipes that do not pass this flushability assessment.

The key to solving this issue is simple: Read before flushing. Disposal instructions on the packaging of wipes and other hygiene and household products are a consumer’s best guidance on how to properly dispose of them. By following the disposal instructions on the label, consumers can protect their plumbing and the infrastructure and environment in their communities.

Submitted by INDA.


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