What 2 Flush Summit: CWEA Meeting Update on Flushable Wipe Products

By Rob Villee

Rob Villee, a WEF Technical Expert on Wipes

A lot has happened in the three months since I did the presentation at the California Water Environment Association Annual Conference in San Diego.  I thought it was important to provide an update.

First, just a few weeks after the conference, the FTC issued a Draft Settlement with wipes manufacturer Nice-Pak regarding the marketing of certain wipes as “flushable”.   (See the news release here).

It also solicited comments on the draft settlement and received more feedback than they normally anticipate for a matter such as this.   All the comments can be seen here.

The FTC also provides some good guidance in their documents that we can use in our negotiations:

“Specifically, any tests, analyses, research, studies, or other evidence purporting to substantiate any of the above representations must at least:

  1. A. demonstrate that the Covered Product disperses in a sufficiently short amount of time after flushing to avoid clogging, or other operational problems in household and municipal sewage lines, septic systems, and other standard wastewater equipment; and
  2. B. substantially replicate the physical conditions of the environment in which the Covered Product is claimed, directly or indirectly, expressly or by implication, to be properly disposed of; or, if no specific environment is claimed, then in all environments in which the product may likely be disposed of”

The second big update is that spunlace material is not the evil I once said it was.   The spunlace material used to make baby wipes is still evil; however, a number of  manufacturers are using pulp based material and adding spunlace to provide strength for a flushable substrate.

Wipes manufacturers Aralar, Albaad, Jacob Holm, and N-Bond are all using equipment built by Trützschler Voith to produce substrates that have strength and rapidly disperse in tests that would be approved by wastewater.   I had a chance to test the Aralar “Araflush” wipes technology recently and their mid/heavy weight product dispersed in less than 10 minutes in the slosh box test variation currently proposed by the wastewater community during the 3rd GD4 meeting in June of this year.    More exciting is that the manufacturers can manipulate the weight, strength, and dispersibility, and I have been told this technology is suitable for both baby wipes and paper towels.

With the proliferation of consumer based, and now municipally based, class action lawsuits against both the manufacturers and retailers, these new substrates hold promise to limit their exposure.   We are hopeful that big retailers like WalMart, Target and Costco will be fighting to be the first with a full line of truly flushable and dispersible wipe products on their shelves using these new, highly dispersible technologies.

Rob Villee is the Executive Director of the Plainfield (NJ) Area Regional Sewage Authority.
TM – ‘What2Flush’ is registered trademark of the Orange County Sanitation District – used with permission.

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Alec Mackie

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