The Problem With “Flushable” Wipes
Flushable wipes, marketed as an alternative to toilet paper, are slowly but surely causing significant damage to the nation’s sewer systems and the environment. Because these wipes don’t disintegrate like toilet paper, they cause considerable problems by clogging drains and sewers.
What’s the big deal? The package says flushable.
Currently, there are no regulations regarding the use of the word “flushable” when marketing these products. That means baby wipes, flushable wipes, makeup wipes, and other such products can claim to be flushable even though they cause substantial issues within home plumbing and sewer systems.
Unlike toilet paper, these wipes do not break down easily. According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, “Over 50% of the raw materials used in wet wipes are cellulosic natural biopolymers such as regenerated fibres (Rayon and Lyocell), wood pulp and cotton, that are all able to biodegrade in an aquatic environment. For a product to be fully biodegradable it must entirely consist of these materials, however synthetic fibres can be found in wet wipes labelled as flushable. Toilet paper as an example is a material which solely consists of cellulosic pulp and disintegrates well after disposal.”
The problem compounds when the non-biodegradable material contained in flushable wipes meet other materials in the sewer system, like oil. The grease accumulates on the wipes, and large balls of grease and wipes form. These masses clog the sewage system’s vital components and must be removed regularly. Major clogs can damage the system causing increased fees and costs to the taxpayers.
“Greenwood Utility District continues to experience substantial issues with residents
improperly disposing of wipes and grease into the district’s sanitary sewer system.
When these items are flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink, the district is
incurring significant costs making repairs to the district’s sewer lines and sewer pumps.” – Municipal District Services
How To Solve This Problem
The Wastewater Infrastructure Pollution Prevention and Environmental Safety Act (WIPPES) was introduced to the House in 2021. The act would require the Federal Trade Commission to issue regulations requiring manufacturers responsible for labeling retail packaging of premoistened, nonwoven wipes to label such products clearly and noticeably with the phrase “Do Not Flush.” The WIPPES Act has been amended and is now awaiting approval by the House Ways & Means Committee. This proposed legislation will ensure that consumers know whether they are purchasing a flushable product that they can safely flush down the toilet without damaging their pipes or clogging sewers.
Until consumers are more clearly informed about the products they purchase, the best solution is to toss the disposable wipes into a trash can after use. That same sentiment is true for any non-biodegradable product that may get stuck in the system, including makeup wipes, baby wipes, cleaning wipes, cotton balls, Q-tips, feminine hygiene products, dental floss, etc. The only appropriate flushable items are toilet paper and human waste.
Spread the word to your family, friends, and neighbors about the dangers of flushing these products down the drain. Remember – Wipes Clog Pipes.
Contact the district if you have any questions regarding what is safe and unsafe to pour or flush down your drains.