Associations Collaborate To Address Wipes ‘Flushability’

March 26, 2015

WEF Resources & Efforts

A group of five associations, representing the water sector and the nonwoven fabrics industry, announced March 19 that they are working collaboratively to develop a new edition of guidelines. These guidelines will influence product design and support the marketing of nonwoven products as “flushable” with no adverse effects on wastewater systems.

The associations also announced a meeting that will take place March 26, in Washington, D.C., to explore a collaborative product stewardship initiative. The initiative will promote greater responsibility for the proper disposal of nonwoven products, including wipes not designed to be flushed.

The group includes the

Developing fourth edition guidelines

The group began developing the new edition of the guidelines on Jan. 27 and is scheduled to complete the process by July 2016. The guidelines are the fourth edition and will build on the framework of the Third Edition Guidance Document for Assessing the Flushability of Nonwoven Disposable Products, which is the current voluntary guidance used by the wipes industry. New information and collaborative sharing of technical expertise between the wastewater sector and the nonwoven fabrics industry should be applied to the third edition guidance framework to further improve the flushability guidelines, according to a joint INDA, NACWA, APWA, WEF, and CWWA news release.

Establishing a collaborative product stewardship initiative

The primary goal for the March 26 meeting will be to explore opportunities to increase public and consumer awareness about the proper disposal of nonwoven wipes products as well as to increase the wipes industry’s responsibility over the downstream effects of these products. The meeting will include wastewater sector representatives, as well as the sustainability and marketing leaders of the nonwoven fabrics industry.

Given the issues associated with nonflushable products, the group is eager to get started on these key objectives. As a group, the associations would like to see improvement in the labeling of wipes that are not designed to be flushed, as well as the development of strategies for a broader consumer education effort about the proper disposal of wipes, the news release says.

The intent, following the initial product stewardship meeting, is for the associations to develop a roadmap for future activities, including improved product labeling, increased public education, and better consumer information regarding product flushability. Depending on the directions developed during the product stewardship process, the initiative could be expanded to include other consumer products that commonly are flushed and cause problems in wastewater systems, such as paper towels, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs and other materials, the news release says.

“Some nonwoven wipes products are not designed to be flushed but get inappropriately flushed anyway, so INDA is working together with NACWA, APWA, WEF and CWWA to develop improved flushability guidelines and other efforts to help alleviate the problems caused in the wastewater systems,” said INDA President Dave Rousse.

“The burden created by nonflushable products for public wastewater utilities must be reduced,” said WEF Executive Director Eileen O’Neill. “The new flushability guidelines and collaborative efforts to improve product stewardship practices are important steps to reducing negative impacts by improving product design and increasing consumer awareness about what should and should not be flushed.”

— Steve Spicer, WEF Highlights

WEF Publications Cover Nonflushables in Wastewater Systems

Read other WEF articles that cover the problem of disposable products in the wastewater system:

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