WEF Announces New Agreement with Wipes Manufacturers. CWEA President Simon Watson Reminds All Californians – It's Important to Know 'What 2 Flush'

What 2 Flush Summit

There’s been a breakthrough on the issue of nondispersible wipes. Please see the announcement below from the Water Environment Federation describing a new, joint effort to develop flushability guidelines for dispersible bathroom wipes.

The agreement represents several years of work bringing together wastewater professionals and wipes makers in order to prevent nondispersible trash from entering the sewer system.

To provide additional information and gather feedback, CWEA and CASA have scheduled a What2Flush Summit in San Diego on Friday morning, May 1st. Two separate panels of experts will cover the wipes issue and medicines flushed down the drain. Panelists will share the latest research, public outreach campaigns and regulatory updates. You and your agency can contribute to these efforts by attending the Summit and inviting others. The networking breakfast and Summit are open to all wastewater professionals, environmental groups and regulators. The Summit occurs during CWEA’s Annual Conference. Event flyer and Summit only reg form (pdf).

“We ask all Californians to understand our sewer system was never designed to process trash and medicines – our toilets are not trash cans,” said Simon Watson, CWEA’s President. “Sewer professionals are put in harm’s way each day cleaning wipes out of the sewer system. We must craft a way to keep our sewer professionals safe while they are protecting California’s water.”

“Let’s ask all Californians – ‘Do you know what to flush?'” said Watson. “As our friends at Orange County Sanitation District like to say it’s the 3Ps – pee, poo and toilet paper.”

California wastewater professionals are deeply involved in this process. Melody LaBella of Central Contra Costa County Sanitary District was a representative for NACWA during last month’s product stewardship meeting with wipes makers.

“NACWA and WEF have done a great job engaging the wipes industry,” said LaBella, who also represents BACWA on this issue. “With the regulatory and legal pressures on wastewater agencies to control sanitary sewer overflows, wipes have been a big issue in California. Time will tell, but I’m hopeful we can come to agreement with the wipes industry on modifying their products, adding appropriate labeling and initiating consumer awareness campaigns to minimize impacts to our facilities.”

“For years, wastewater agencies have expressed concern over the flushing of non-dispersible products, such as disposable wipes, that have severely impacted wastewater facilities,” said John Pastore, Executive Director of the Southern California Association of POTWs. “SCAP applauds this joint effort as a significant step towards achieving acceptable industry guidelines for flushability.”

—– CWEA Announcement Ends —-

—– WEF Press Release Begins —-

Associations Collaborate to Launch Improved “Flushability” Guidelines to Reduce Impacts of Improper Wipes Disposal

The group met in March to discuss the establishment of a new Product Stewardship Initiative

A group of five associations, representing the water sector and the nonwoven fabrics industry, announced today that they are working collaboratively on the joint development of a new edition of guidelines that 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 to take place March 26th, in Washington, DC, where they will explore the establishment of a collaborative product stewardship initiative to promote greater responsibility for the proper disposal of nonwoven products, including wipes not designed to be flushed.

The association group, which includes INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry; NACWA, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies; APWA, the American Public Works Association; WEF, the Water Environment Federation; as well as CWWA, the Canadian Water & Wastewater Association, began developing the new edition on January 27, 2015 and is scheduled to complete the process by July, 2016. The new “Fourth Edition” guidelines will build on the framework of the “Third Edition Guidance Document for Assessing the Flushabiity of Nonwoven Disposable Products,” which is the current voluntary guidance used by the wipes industry. The Third Edition Guidance Document represents a reasonable framework to which new information and collaborative sharing of technical expertise between the wastewater sector and the nonwoven fabrics industry should be applied to further improve the flushability guidelines.

The primary goal for the March 26th meeting will be to explore opportunities to increase public and consumer awareness about the proper disposal of the nonwoven wipes products, and also to increase the wipes industry’s responsibility over downstream impacts 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 non-flushable products, the group is eager to get started on these key objectives.

“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.

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. “APWA welcomes the collaborative product stewardship process, and the discussions about the products that are commonly flushed and causing problems in wastewater systems,” said APWA Executive Director Peter B. King. “Public works professionals across North America also welcome the improved labeling of products to educate consumers and reduce the amount of non-flushable products in our municipal water systems.

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 are commonly flushed and cause problems in wastewater systems, such as paper towels, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs and other materials.

“NACWA looks forward to working with the wipes industry to help improve consumer awareness about products that should and should not be flushed,” said NACWA Executive Director Ken Kirk. “Toilets are not trash cans, and reducing the amount of inappropriately flushed products will save utilities millions of dollars each year.”

“The burden created by non-flushable products for public wastewater utilities must be reduced,” added 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.”

Read the press release on WEF’s website >

Learn more about the CASA-CWEA What2Flush Summit >

Questions or suggestions?

Alec Mackie
Chair, CWEA Membership & External Relations Committee
Past Chair, WEF HOD NonDispersibles Work Group
714-428-4614

About the Author

Alec Mackie

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