News Feature | May 9, 2018

Lawmakers Target 'Flushable' Wipes

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

In a positive sign for wastewater utilities and sewage system overseers, so-called "flushable" wipes might get regulated.

The New Jersey Senate Commerce Committee is considering a bill that would require manufacturers of wet wipes to print “do not flush” on each package. Companies would need to also illustrate this point pictorially.

Sewer experts say that pre-moistened wipes, such as those marketed for babies and toddlers and billed as safe to throw down the toilet, tend to clog up the system. Wipe manufacturers have generally claimed the product is safe for sewers.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety would enforce the potential law, which would carry a $5,000 fine.

The measure would apply to “non-flushable nonwoven disposable wipe product,” according to New Jersey 101.5.

That means “any pre-moistened wipe product constructed from nonwoven sheets and marketed for diapering, personal hygiene, or bathroom surface cleaning purposes,” the report stated.

The proposal has received positive reviews from environmentalists.

“We support any legislation that works to reduce the amount of waste getting into our water infrastructure,” said Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, per the report. “Putting a very clear label on a disposable wipe is a good reminder to let people know this goes in the garbage, not down the toilet.”

Some public works departments have sought to educate customers about the hazard of flushable wipes. Donna Lascalein, department director in Northampton, MA, summed it up like this: “I think the easiest thing we can tell folks is that when you think about the best way to help us maintain the system in good working order that toilet paper is acceptable to put in the toilet, that's it,” WWLP reported.

Flushable wipes have already been hit with penalties in other countries.

In Australia, the company Pental “has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay $700,000 for misleading its customers into thinking that its toilet and bathroom cleaning wipes were flushable,” Australian Broadcasting Company reported.

“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said Pental's packaging and promotions for its White King wipes claimed that they were made from specially designed material that would disintegrate like toilet paper when flushed,” the report said.