Flushable Wipes and Other Non-Dispersible Products

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Clean water agencies across the country are increasingly dealing with problems caused by wipes and other products that do not break down quickly in the sewer system. Utilities are spending millions of dollars to respond to overflows, clean these products out of their pumps and other equipment, and to replace equipment that should have had more useful years of service.  NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the American Public Works Association (APWA) are working together to address this problem.  This page provides resources and references related to the wipes issue.

Given the far-reaching impacts of wipes and other products on clean water agencies, NACWA launched a new campaign to protect pipes, pumps, and plants by reducing the harmful materials that are flushed or drained into the sewer system. These products include wipes, pharmaceuticals, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, dental floss, FOG (fats, oils, and greases), as well as product additives such as triclosan. If you have materials to add to this page, please send them to Cynthia Finley at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

What You Can Do To Help

Does your utility have problems with wipes and other non-dispersible products, and would you like to help with our national advocacy efforts? If so, please take photos of the problem and complete a Non-Dispersibles Incident Report.  Two versions of the report are available:

Completed forms should be returned to John Pastore, Executive Director of the Southern California Alliance of Publicly Owned Treatment Works (SCAP), at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or fax #760-479-4881.  John is compiling a national database of non-dispersible incidents (you do not need to be in Southern California to use this SCAP report form).  Collecting as much information as possible about these incidents is vital to the efforts of NACWA, WEF, and APWA.  We appreciate your help!

 

Webcast

WEF hosted a webcast on June 19, 2013 that provided an overview of the problems caused by non-dispersible products and the actions taken thus far by WEF, NACWA, and APWA.  A recording of the webcast is available at www.wef.org/FlushableorNot/ and the slides from the webcast may be downloaded here icon-pdf.

 

Videos

  • United Utilities, England - Can’t Flush This! Entertaining video that shows what happens when “flushing the wrong things down the loo.”
  • Sewermen of Thames Water, London, Holiday videos on avoiding disposal of FOG and wipes in the sewer2012 Videoexternal.link2011 Videoexternal.link
  • City of Spokane Department of Wastewater Management – Will It Flush?external.linkThis video demonstrates the relative dispersibility (or lack of dispersibility) of various products, including toilet paper, facial tissues, cotton swabs, and kitty litter.
  • Portland Water District – Don’t Flush Wipesexternal.link
    This dramatic public service announcement was created by University of Southern Maine students for the Portland Water District.
  • Consumer Reports – Flushable Wipesexternal.link
    This video shows disintegration tests of toilet paper and “flushable” wipes, as well as a consumer talking about her sewage basement backup caused by wipes.
  • The demonstration in this video shows a wipe breaking up in a “slosh box test,” but utilities believe this test does not simulate actual sewer conditions.

 

Studies and Other Information about Non-Dispersible Products

 

Flushability Guidelines

  • INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry: Information for Product Manufacturers external.link, including the 3rd Edition Flushability Guidelines and Code of Practice (with labeling guidelines).
  • Nonwovens Industry articleexternal.link about launch of the 3rd Edition Flushability Guidelines.
  • NACWA letter to INDA about draft 3rd Edition Flushability Guidelines.
  • NSF International Flushability Certification webpage external.link, with information about certification with the INDA/EDANA guidelines for flushability.

 

Educational Materials

  • Don't Flush the Baby (Wipes) and lyricsicon-pdf – an original song by Steve Anderson, Water Resources Analyst, Clean Water Services
  • City of Vancouver — “Smart Flush Bunny” Postericon-pdf and Advertisementicon-pdf
  • City of Tacoma — “Flushable? Think again...” Postericon-pdf
  • Clean Water Services’ “Can the Wipes” webpageexternal.link, with links to a “Wipes Clog Pipes” poster and a short cartoon about proper disposal of wipes.
  • Orange County Sanitation District’s “What 2 Flush” webpageexternal.link.  Includes information about wipes and many other products that can cause clogs and damage the environment.
  • Portland Water District (Maine) – Webpageexternal.link with their mascot, “Stopper the unflushable!,” a link to a bill stuffer, and a summary of an interesting partnership with the local university that helped blanket public places with toilet details.
  • Anaheim Public Works – “The Toilet is NOT a Trash Can!” article in the Fall 2012 Recycle Anaheim newslettericon-pdf (page 2)
  • CCCSD Wipes Clog Pipes Postcard - "Wipes Clog Pipes"icon-pdf 
  • City of Seal Beach Classes and Activities Flyer - Classes and Activities, Fall 2013 icon-pdf

 

Media Coverage

The following list is a selection of the ongoing media coverage of this issue. A comprehensive list of news articles related to wipes is maintained by the Maine Water Environment Association at http://www.mwwca.org/wipes-in-the-news.

 

Industry Publications

NACWA's The Water Voice

WEF Highlights

Pumper Magazine

Other

 

Presentations from NACWA Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Workshops

2013, The Toilet Is Not a Trash Can! Preventing Inappropriate Flushing

2012, Some of These Things Do Not Belong… What Else Gets Flushed

  • Rob Villeeicon-pdf, Plainfield Area Regional Sewerage Authority, NJ

2010, Flushable Wipes Clogging Pipes – What Can be Done?

  • Rory Holmesicon-pdf, INDA (Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry)

 

Presentations from Other Conferences

  • Nick Arhontes icon-pdf, May 9, 2013, Non-Dispersibles Update, for the CWEA Government Affairs Committee at OCSD in Fountain Valley, CA
  • Nick Arhontes icon-pdf, April 18, 2013, Panel Discussion: Can the Wastewter and Non-Woven Industries Innovate our way out of the Flushable but Non-Dispersible Problems, for the CWEA Annual Conference
  • Nick Arhontes icon-pdf, February 28, 2013, Strangled by Disposables – An Update on Flushable but Not Dispersible Products, for the CASSE General Meeting
  • Nick Arhontesicon-pdf, January 24, 2013, Strangled by Disposables – An Update on Flushable but Not Dispersible Products, for the California Water Environment Association Santa Ana River Basin Section
  • Nick Arhontesicon-pdf, December 2012, Update on Flushable but Not Dispersible, for the Maintenance Superintendents Association

 

Costco Meeting

On July 10, 2012, utility representatives from  NACWA, the American Public Works Association (APWA), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) met with representatives from Costco and their manufacturers of “flushable” wipes to discuss the issues involved with these products and potential solutions.  See NACWA’s Clean Water Current storykey for more information about the meeting.   Letters were sent to Costco from the following organizations explaining wastewater utilities’ problems with these products:

 
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