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Flushable Wipes – Some Wins and Some Losses

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For those that have been following our efforts to address all the problems with the ‘not-so-flushable’ wipes. We have had a few setbacks, but also a few successes. 

CWWA was involved in a partnership effort with the wipes manufacturers (INDA) along with our friends at WEF, APWA and NACWA in the U.S. Our technical workgroup (with Dwayne Kalynchuk for CWWA) was trying to develop a new Guidelines Document (GD4) for their industry association that would better define what products can be called ‘flushable’ and the testing/verification process. Unfortunately, we could not overcome some major points of disagreement and we have had to walk away from that effort for now.

Meanwhile, this same INDA/CWWA/WEF/APWA/NACWA partnership was working on a revised Code of Practice (CoP) for the manufacturers. I, Robert Haller, represented CWWA here. We were very pleased with the cooperation within the industry to develop guidelines for batter labeling and consumer education. As INDA announces this new CoP, we should start to see larger, more visible labeling of products on the shelf as well as clear instructions for the end-users (pun intended). They have agreed to have a clear Do Not Flush symbol next to the point where wipes are extracted. This is for all non-woven wipes that could likely be used in a bathroom or come in contact with human waste – baby wipes to counter wipes). This will have a big impact on a lot of the items being flushed, but does not deal with the products that THEY still consider ‘flushable’. This is where we agreed to disagree for now. We congratulate them on their new CoP but cannot be signatories to it or support it fully.

Simultaneously to our efforts in Washington, several CWWA members led by Duncan Ellison have been working on an international effort to develop an ISO Standard. Similar to the GD4 effort, this process is intended to have utility leaders and wipes manufacturers work together toward a shared definition of flushability, how the products must disperse, the testing/verification required and the labeling. Like the GD4 effort, this process has faced some disagreements. The progress may be stalled for now, but efforts are underway to find a way forward.

In a new effort, we should soon have have our own wastewater sector guidelines. While the manufacturers (INDA) have their GD3 (and soon GD4) documents, CWWA is leading an effort with MESUG,  WEF, APWA, NACWA and many more international partners in an International Wastewater Consortium. This group has declared its solidarity and many of you, our municipal members, have signed on with your support. The consortium is working on the first draft of a guideline document now that represents the knowledge and experience of wastewater professionals. We will be calling upon all of you to support us as we move forward.  

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