Wet Wipes, Are They Flushable?

12 Dec

Three positive environmental changes emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic

Two relate to cutting fuel consumption and air pollution associated with driving: More people worked from home and more meetings were held virtually. A third change may not be as apparent, but it affects anyone whose wastewater involves a sewer system. The change concerns disposable wipes that are commonly marketed as “flushable.” As wipes usage surged during the pandemic, sewer problems multiplied. Eventually, manufacturers and distributors agreed to develop a set of regulations, equally applied to all, so no single company would have a competitive advantage. Then, the states took it further…

Deadline approaching to comply with DO NOT FLUSH laws

In past blogs we discussed fatbergs, clogged drains, and sewerage systems blocked by clumps of wet wipes, baby and personal care wipes, that were labeled flushable but were far from it. Washington was the first state in the U.S. with a wipes law! Washington's law, passed in 2020, requires that non-flushable wipes be labeled with a clear “Do Not Flush” logo.  Legislation enacted by CaliforniaIllinoisOregon, and Washington requires labels for disposable wipes to contain specific symbols and statements to clearly indicate they are not flushable. The intent of such legislation is to help consumers easily identify the difference between flushable and non-flushable wipes, ultimately protecting water quality and public wastewater systems. According to the U.S. EPA, non-flushable wipes can potentially clog toilets, create sewer backups, and significantly damage pipes and wastewater treatment equipment. https://srcconsultants.com/upcoming-deadline-to-comply-with-state-requirements-for-disposable-wipes/ And, states have established penalties for non-compliance.


Label Requirements

A “wipe” is defined in the regulations as a woven or non-woven shop towel, rag, pad, or swab made of wood pulp, fabric, cotton, polyester blends, or other material. As for labeling, wipes packages now must include a universal “do not flush” symbol — a circle with a line through it — over a graphic of a person putting a wipe in a toilet. The words “do not flush” must also feature prominently on the product’s display panel.  A small percentage of wipes are still allowed to be labeled as “flushable,” because they are made with short, natural fibers designed to degrade as easily as toilet paper.  https://www.vcpublicworks.org/2022/11/19/eco-tip-flushable-wipes-not-really-a-state-law-clarifies-labeling/  The statement “Do Not Flush” must appear in high contrast on a specific location of the label based on packaging type.

What Case Medical has done about it

Non-flushable wipes have created a stink for workers who have to unclog massive sewer systems because the synthetic material doesn’t break down in water. Nevertheless, wipes needed for personal care and for infection prevention must be strong and not dissolve easily or they would not serve the intended purpose of creating friction while applying a cleaning agent or solvent to a soiled surface. Our plan of action, immediately label DO NOT FLUSH prominently of the outer packaging. Look for a wipe material that is sustainable, if not water soluble at least biodegradable in soil or compostable. That leads to another story from our past. Years ago, I was invited to join a health care panel on disposable and reusable packaging in South Africa. The issue was their concern that wrap material is not compostable. They loved our SteriTite container system for steam sterilization with paper filter that can be used in their gardens and disappear in soil. Watch for our new sustainable wipes in Q1 composed of wood pulp and validated for biodegradability in soil.
We have more cost effective and sustainable ideas to share. Contact us with any questions or concerns, we are here to help. Please share your ideas on any other ways that Case Medical can come to the rescue with safer products, education, and innovative solutions.

Visit us anytime at www.casemed.com to learn more about our products and services. We are here to help.

Kindest Regards,

Marcia Frieze and the Case Medical team

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