Rochester, Minnesota’s Public Works Department breaks down the hazards of flushing wipes and other non-flushables into sewer systems. Watch as they go through the process of what must be done in order to remove the unwanted items and prevent backups.
“Every day Rochester residents are sending wastewater down the drain to the Water Reclamation Plant for treatment. Unfortunately it isn’t just toilet paper and human waste being flushed. Non-flushable items are causing damage and costly sewer back-ups for property owners.”
Comedian Adam Conover explains the madness behind the “flushable” wipes. As he takes a trip down the sewer, he comes across a “fatberg” and San Fransisco Utilities Commission worker, Tyrone Jue tells us what exactly that means and what it does for our sewer systems.
Wipes makers continue to block allegations…and pipes.
Raleigh, NC is no stranger to the “wipes clog”. On February 5th, the city was notified of a hefty blockage causing sewage to spill over into Crabtree Creek. The city states that while INDA may say that wipes marked safe to flush are ok for the sewer, they just can’t stand by it.
“Several years ago, the city tested various paper products, including facial tissues and wipes, to see how quickly they disintegrated in a beaker of swirling water. Toilet paper began to fall apart almost immediately, while the tissues and wipes – even those sold as flushable – remained almost completely intact.”
Are the flushed hospital wipes to blame for the madness?
On February 6, 2017 a sewage spill in Newport Beach, CA was the culprit of shut down roads in the Newport Bay area.
“An Orange County Sanitation District crew responded to a report around 9:40 a.m. Monday that sewage had backed up and was coming out of a manhole on the northbound side of Newport Boulevard and Hospital Road (near Hoag Hospital), said Anthony Martinez, manager of OCHCA’s Ocean Water Quality Program. It’s believed that a blockage in a main sewer line contributed to the spill, Martinez said.”
USA Today reported that each year, health facilities flush an estimated 250 million pounds of drugs down the drain. But thats not all – with the increased use of wipes in healthcare facilities, we’re beginning to see damaging clogs and spillage from hospitals flushing down the non-flushable waste.
Last month, at the Society of Plastics Engineers Polyolefins Conference in Houston, TX, it was reported that Kimberly-Clark had just made their first major move since ~2007. The company revealed that they are expanding into new global markets and adding new lines to be sold in Korea, Colombia, Brazil and Singapore.
It’s suggested that K-C’s “Coform” technology is the reason for the new expansion. What’s Coform? Coform is a direct formed, thermal bonded airlaid technology which was first developed in the 1970s. The product sold internationally will include this same technology but offer a lower tonnage to (supposedly) adapt to the needs of emerging markets. The industry giant claims that this product is groundbreaking because it’s special technology allows it to clean better than the competition with less abrasion.
What’s the big deal? Kimberly-Clark is targeting emerging markets for their diaper and wipes products where they have a lot less competition. The problem is that the global wipes clog issue is already a big problem in major cities worlwide, however, this expansion could push it into a global (expensive) underground catastrophe. What’s more? Some of these countries don’t have the resources and technology to support the detrimental effects that come with wipes building up in the sewers.
New to Japanese airport bathroom stalls: Smartphone wipes on a roll.
In December, Tokyo’s Narita International Airport introduced the Smartphone Wipe to encourage guests to disinfect their smartphone screens while they visit the restroom.
Why? Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo, the company behind the effort, cited research in their video (below) that smartphone screens carry five times the amount of germs than toilet seats. According to a BuzzFeed report, toilet seats carry three types of bacteria, but the average phone screen carries between 10 to 12 types, including E.coli and fecal bacteria.
While the company claims that the wipes are “flushable”, there is no data to back up the claim and prove that they are not a threat to detrimental sewer clogs.
Extensive Market Research shows a steady growth across the board for the Non-Wovens Industry sales.
Wipes can be divided into two subgroups: Consumer and Industrial. Consumer wipes include two categories: personal care and household care – think makeup remover wipes, moist toilet wipes, glass cleaner wipes, kitchen wipes, etc. Industrial wipes are broken into four subgroups: general purpose, specialty, food service and healthcare wipes.
As we can see from the chart above, the wipes market from 2016 came in with a whopping $11 billion for the consumer product sales and $4 billion for industrial product sales.
In mature geographic regions, new products and increased interest in sustainability will drive growth; while emerging market regions continue to discover the efficiencies offered to institutions by industrial wipes, and the convenience and time-saving offered to increasingly affluent consumers.
Read about each category of wipes and the rest of the Market Research study, here.
In response to a class action lawsuit filed by 6 Minnesota cities and utilities the target flushable wipes companies have come in to inspect what is in the clogs. The courts have ordered the cities to allow the lawyers from the wipes companies to check out the clogs for themselves. We hope they can keep their suits clean!
A Kimberly-Clark representative told local new outlets, “Our products meet or exceed the widely accepted industry standards of flushability,” and, “In Minnesota, Kimberly-Clark is not aware of any instance where a K-C flushable wipe has caused a clog in a municipal sewer.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2015 and, right now, the 20-day jury trial isn’t scheduled to start until April of 2018. Maybe in the meantime a Muffin Monster might help fight the wipes battle!
Earlier in the year, Kimberly-Clark was under fire for the misleading branding of their bathroom moist wipes as “Flushable”. Why? Because *shocker* they’re not actually flushable.
Many companies have branded their wipes “flushable” in hopes of trick consumers into believing that they are ok to use. Not only does this give them a leg up in the industry, but the claims of getting the user felling cleaner than regular toilet paper with no apparent downside has attracted many new consumers.
So what’s the takeaway here? The city of Brisbane, Australia has discovered that the influx in wet wipe usage is actually the major contributor to the expensive sewer clogs, so tricking customers into thinking they’re not adding to the problem is the big no-no here.
What’s next? The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission is ramping up to take out Kimberly-Clark Australia Pty Ltd and Pental Limited companies due to their false representations. If this works out in favor of the ACCC and the city of Brisbane, Queensland Urban Utilities would be saving a whopping $1.5 that they usually spend yearly clearing wipes from the sewer lines.
That’s right – “Flushable Moist Wipes” may soon be a thing of the past. The Council of the District of Columbia is considering a ban on the sale and advertising of these wipes and, if passed, will out rule the product city wide. As we know, a large majority of these wipes don’t actually break down in sewage systems and have led to some pretty incredibly disastrous problems…think sewage clogs, floods, and burst pipes in large cities like London, New York, Sydney, etc.
Skeptics and moist-wipe supporters are fighting back, stating that only 2% of the clogs from these disasters came from moist wipes and the other 98% is from baby wipes (and other wipes not marketed as flushable), paper towels, trash and plastic particles. They also point fingers at lawmakers saying that if this ban is passed it’s a direct violation of their freedom of speech to advertise the product and that it won’t actually fix the problem.
Pretty picture, huh? What you’re looking at is what we call a “fatberg”, a mixture of sewer clogging debris that causes expensive, detrimental clogs in pipes around the world.
As we know, there’s a wipe for just about anything you can think of nowadays; e.g. make-up removing wipes, beard wipes, deodorant wipes, kitchen cleaning wipes, and perhaps the biggest offender, the bum wipes which claim to be flushable and preach to get you feeling cleaner than regular TP after using the restroom.
Question:You wouldn’t knowingly flush pieces of plastic down the toilet, right?
Newsflash:Flushing a single-use wipe isn’t any better!
Wipes contain a tangle of synthetic cellulosic fiber and plastic fibers which makes them almost impossible to breakdown in an average sewer system.
“Fatberg season used to peak on Christmas Day, when people poured turkey fat down the drains in a mass festive clog. Now they’re an all-year hazard, thanks to the inexorable rise of the wet wipe.”
So, as we approach New Year’s resolution time, start thinking of ways you can vow to help the planet this year. Nix the habit of using household and personal wipes and opt for other alternatives. Need an example? Toilet paper mist (cheaper, portable, and your sewer will thank you!)
Photo Credit: MSN – The Atlantic “Are wipes wrecking the world’d sewers?”
Seems that the wet wipes problem has no intention to slow down. But places like Wyoming, Minnesota are beginning to rise up against industry lead studies that dictate “flushable” compliancy.
Wyoming, along with hundreds of other cities across the country are being forced to shut down sewer systems & manually extract raw sewage clogs more often than not.
Our research shows that about 85% of lift stations are not equipped to deal with the problem and the wipes usage is growing every year. Not every lift station has the problem – but when they do JWC Muffin Monsters with Wipes Ready Technologiesare the right answer.
The addiction is real – to wet wipes that is. Read this new article on this addiction & the hardships cities around the world are facing as a result.
If your facility is facing pump clogging problems the first place to look for answers is with JWC Muffin Monsters. Our Dual shafted sewage and sludge grinders have come to the rescue of enough “non-clog” pumps to know this is not the best solution.
The nonwovens industry is under fire and it’s no surprise that companies are scrambling to comply with regulations and keep a strong hold on their customers….whether they do it ethically or not.
You may have heard of Hollywood celebrity Jessica Alba’s company. It’s called the “Honest Company” – but in recent allegations, they’ve been anything but honest with their customers.
“According to consumer complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission, Jessica Alba’s Honest Company not only makes it virtually impossible to cancel subscriptions, the company sometimes signs you up for recurring payments without even telling you.”
What’s going on? After nearly three years in the works, the ISO has finally began making progress on establishing global standards for wipes manufacturers.
Who’s the ISO? Stands for International Standards Organization. They serve as a body for nearly 200 participating countries to develop global standards.
What’s the catch? It comes as no surprise that INDA, EDANA, and other nonwovens industry stakeholders around the world keep their hands in the mix to ensure they’re being treated fairly in testing methods and labeling practices.
But there’s good news for both sides!
If the ISO is successful in creating global testing standards, we will dramatically cut down on the amount of debris clogging up sewer systems around the world.
Wipes that do pass these standards will not only receive the gold stamp of approval to have “flushable” on their packaging (aka happy Marketing Teams), but they can also be sold for a pretty penny over the competition that wasn’t so lucky on passing the test.
New York may have come up with a solution on how to wipe out the wipes madness: A new bill is in the works that would fine any store that sells wet wipes that don’t comply with stiff new regulations.
How much would they be fined? A whopping $2,500.
How would stores know which wipes they can and can’t sell? Easy. This bill would also prohibit non-wovens manufacturers from labeling their wipes as “flushable” unless they’ve passed a series of tests that have been set forth by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Why New York? The states’ aging pipes are requiring them to act quickly to nix the wipes clogs problem in order to avoid a major catastrophe.
Lawsuits are piling up and INDA (the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics) is beginning to worry.
Backstory: INDA has received 15 lawsuits so far for having a hand in some detrimental sewer problems from flushable wipes. Two of the lawsuits have already been settled and ended without a monetary loss to the Association. As of now, it cannot be proven that wipes in compliance with flushability regulations are solely to blame. However, 93% of the wipes tonnage used today is not marketed as flushable – and this is what makes INDA worry will get them into hot water.
So, as INDA hits the drawing board to come up with more flushability regulations for its industry to follow, lawyers are just getting warmed up.
“We are working with these manufacturers, converters and brand owners because there are increased risks if they don’t label their products under our Code of Practice,” he says. “The entire wipes industry needs to pay attention to this.” – Dave Rousse, President of INDA
Kerry County, Ireland, experienced a large amount of sewage discharging into the Mulaghi River this month.
After video footage and complaints from local residents surfaced, county officials dug in to find a cause.
The outcome? Sewage is believed to have been leaking into the river for several days before it was finally noticed. Council workers arrived at the scene only to find the pipes causing the discharge were completely clogged by a build up of wipes.
The well-know brand Kleenex recently responded to questions from Ad News’ Watchdog about whether their wipes should be labeled as ‘flushable’ due to recent findings around the world that supposedly flushable wipes are causing major plumbing blockages.
AdNews: Do you think there should be a warning on the packaging saying they do not disintegrate like toilet paper?
Kleenex: We just go by whatever the government says. If you want more information I’ll get your details and get someone to call you back.
While wipes remain at the top of the hit list for damaging pipes and clogging sewer systems, we must not forget that toilet paper can still be a large culprit of destruction.
It’s time that we start following in the footsteps of our more innovative counterparts overseas and begin using alternative methods to get cleaner – so, kiss your plunger goodbye forever (not literally, please) and say hello to the bidet. You’ll save money and resources AND feel cleaner….what’s better than that?
“Frankly, I got a bidet to ease the burden on my own infrastructure. But a second benefit is how much water I’m saving by eliminating most of the need for toilet paper, a water-intensive product at the production stage.”
“I estimate the pressurized squirting action uses one or two cups per appointment. But that’s nothing compared to the estimated 13 gallonsof water it takes to produce one roll of TP. And then there are the trees I’m saving. Global TP production uses an estimated 27,000 trees, daily. Additionally, I’m saving lots of money.
Furthermore, bidets will help prevent municipal pipes from clogging and ease sewage treatment processes.”
Hugo Gonzalez, a Leucadia Wastewater District technician, prepares a camera to search for roots in a Carlsbad, Calif., sewer line. Without normal levels of outdoor irrigation, tree roots in search of water have invaded sewer pipes and grown there over time. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
With California experiencing severe drought, Californians are on high alert for water conservation and have been diligent in efforts to slash water usage. However, in this LA Times article by Matt Stevens, he explains how water conservation is creating another issue in the sewage systems.
With less flow to flush the solids down the system, those solids are collecting and can eventually damage pipes. If flows go lower, stuff (including the wipes) could stop moving in some lines….
By lowering water usage, chances of solids getting clogged in smaller pipes are higher and it is causing extra maintenance and expenses for the city.
Specialty hygienic wipe products are entering the market in a bearded storm. We noticed a trend when Dude Wipes started gaining popularity with the “dudes”. Well now there’s a new product for men with beards.
Septic care can be just easy as beard care, it’s as simple as disposing it in the proper trash bin and not the toilet!
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments started a campaign to help educate civilians about the villains that harm pipes and pumps. These criminals include expired medication, wipes, and FOGS (fats, oils and grease)!
In early 2011, the Maine Water Environment Association conducted a study across the Maine in respect to the flushable wipes issue. From the 58 responses they received, they found that:
90% indicated they were having problems
40% indicated that they had more than 10 incidents in the previous year
Estimated costs were nearly $600,000 or an average of $37,500 per town
In Portland, ME officials reported spending $4.5 million installing screens in two pump stations.
“We estimated based on the capital costs of those screens, and the labor and disposal of the wipes, we were paying $800 per dry pound of wipes,” – Michelle Clements, a spokeswoman for the Portland (ME) Water District.
Not only are wipes damaging equipment, interfering with pump stations, but they are also affecting the environment. When there is an overflow at the pump stations, the extra water goes out into the Penobscot River, carrying with it the unintended sewage and materials as well.