Wipes Update: FTC Finalizes Settlement with Flushable Wipes Maker, Will It Make a Difference?

Rag ball photo JWCE

Two Headed rag ball monster. Courtesy of JWC Environmental

On November 2 the Federal Trade Commission voted to finalize a settlement with wipes maker NicePak and accepted 37 public comments related to the settlement. NicePak is a manufacturer of store brand wipes and is one of the largest wipes manufacturers in North America.

According to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) – the FTC sent a clear message to all manufacturers that flushable wipes “flunked” the flushable test.

The settlement was  negotiated between the FTC and NicePak in May of this year and banned an older type of wipe NicePak manufactured prior to 2014.  According to the company their current wipe technology complies with all FTC and industry standards and this newer flushable wipe technology will continue to be sold. “All claims related to our current flushable product portfolio are fully substantiated as safe to flush,” according to a company statement, “and the consent agreement does not require any change to our existing products or claims.”

According to NACWA’s Cynthia Finley Director of Regulatory Affairs:

Will this solve the problems utilities are having? Unfortunately, no, since too many people are flushing baby wipes and other types of wipes that are super strong and not designed to break down at all in a sewer system.  This problem can only be solved with better product labeling and consumer education.  NACWA is working with other wastewater associations and the wipes industry.  In the meantime, it’s best to remember to only flush the 3 Ps: pee, poop, and toilet paper!

In a separate interview with TPO magazine, David Rousse, the President of the wipes manufacturers’ association talked about their relationship with the wastewater associations:

TPO: How would you characterize INDA’s relationship with the wastewater industry representatives now versus three to five years ago?

Rousse: I would say there is a significant improvement. We are working collaboratively with them, sharing data and information, and discussing the true essence of the problems. I think we both better understand and appreciate the challenges each side has.

We acknowledge that there’s a problem in wastewater systems and that wipes are a significant contributor — but they’re not the only contributor. Paper towels, feminine hygiene products and other items are flushed inappropriately. Seven percent of our products are designed and marketed as flushable, but they get 99 percent of the attention. We’re trying to focus attention on the 93 percent of wipes that are sometimes inappropriately flushed. We want to educate people that the toilet is not a trash can.

WEF is one of the wastewater associations working with INDA. The process includes developing a fourth edition of INDA’s flushability guidelines, including dispersibility tests wastewater professionals and INDA representatives can agree on. Also part of the process is the development of a public education campaign to educate the public on what to flush.

Rag ball photo JWCE

Rag ball photo courtesy of JWC Environmental.

Thank you to Costa Mesa based JWC Environmental for allowing us to use their rag ball photos from their recent “Ragball Photo Contest.”

What do you think? What’s happening with wipes inside the collection system your help maintain or at the water resource recovery facility where you work?

 

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Alec Mackie

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