California Pursues Legislation to Address Wipes Labeling

(April 30, 2019) - A state bill to address the labeling of both “nonflushable” and “flushable” wet wipe products is moving the through the California Legislature, recently passing out of two committees. California State Assembly Bill 1672 (AB 1672, Bloom) is being sponsored by the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) and would establish labeling requirements and performance standards for wet wipes based on the International Water Services Flushability Group (IWSFG) flushability specification.

Wipes have been an issue for wastewater collection and treatment systems for many years, but utilities have seen a proliferation of these products in recent years. Because many wet wipes are not compatible with sewer systems and infrastructure, flushing these products results in their getting caught in pipes or accumulating with fats, oils, and grease (FOG) and becoming larger obstructions, known as “fatbergs,” that can cause costly backups or overflows.  Wipes may also weave together into rope-like masses that get stuck in pump systems and motors, damaging expensive utility equipment.

Wipes have been a major focus of NACWA’s Toilets Are Not Trashcans campaign, and NACWA has worked collaboratively with other organizations since 2013 to try to find solutions to the wipes problem.  NACWA, INDA—the trade association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Association—the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Public Works Association (APWA), and the Canadian Water & Wastewater Association (CWWA) collaborated on the 2nd Edition INDA Code of Practice: Communicating Appropriate Disposal Pathways for Nonwoven Wipes to Protect Wastewater Systems (COP), which is used as the basis for the labeling requirements in the California bill. 

The regulations on wipes labeling recently proposed by the District of Columbia (DC) are also similar to those in the COP.  NACWA supports both the California bill and DC’s efforts to regulate wipes and encourages other states and municipalities to consider similar legislation to control how wipes are labeled.

CASA and a number of California wastewater agencies are also engaging in a concerted public information campaign to educate individuals about the impacts of these products. An infographic, an original Wipes Clog Pipes logo, and several videos and news articles are available on the CASA website

If you have encountered these wipes in your system, CASA is encouraging agencies to get active on social media to share your experiences and support this legislation.  Be sure to tag @CASA_CleanWater on Twitter and use #WipesClogPipes in your posts!

To learn more about AB 1672, please contact CASA’s legislative team, Jessica Gauger and Jared Voskuhl. To learn more about NACWA’s work on this issue, please contact Cynthia Finley