Guest Column | June 13, 2014

WWEMA Window: ‘Nondispersibles' Turning Sewers Into Nightmares Nationwide


By Fritz Egger, JWC Environmental

Increasingly, wipes are causing serious issues for wastewater treatment system operators.  Many of the wipes entering the sewage system are not dispersible and technically not flushable.  The term “flushable wipes” was spawned in the 1980s, when a consumer products company brought a latex bonded airlaid wet wipe with polyester fibers onto the market.  The wipe was considered “flushable” since it could transit through the toilet, but with all those polyester fibers it was not dispersible.

Wipes use is predominant in the U.S., Western Europe, Japan and Israel, but is expanding on a global scale. In addition, the definition of what is flushable is not subject to industry guidelines, consumer instructions, or government oversight.  With the explosion of wipes on the market there is significant consumer confusion about what is and is not flushable.  Baby wipes, as an example, are not flushable.