Could wet wipes be heading for extinction?
There’s no denying it: plastic waste is a huge problem in today’s society- ending up in our landfills, water supply and oceans while harming humans and animals alike.
So what’s that got to do with wipes? Wet-wipes contain non-biodegradable plastic fibers that allow them to maintain their integrity in various solutions. When disposed of properly (in the trash) the single-use convenience items end up in landfills, further contributing to the waste epidemic. When disposed of improperly (down the toilet) wet wipes cause huge problems and expensive blockages in residential sewer lines and municipal pipes as well as wastewater treatment facilities.
According to BBC News, the UK government has plans in order to eliminate plastic single-use waste products, which would include wet wipes – “So manufacturers will either have to develop plastic-free wipes or consumers will have to go without.”
Continue reading the article here.
A New Horizon for Wipes
Austria based company, the Lenzing Group, creates eco-friendly fibers for various applications. Their new product called “Veocel” is made up of a mixture of cellulosic Lyocell fibers and wood pulp that easily and safely break down in a much shorter period of time.
Currently, wet wipes are produced using non-biodegradable synthetic fibers like polyester, which are difficult to breakdown when flushed and also leave microscopic pieces of plastic in our water supply even after it’s treated. In contrast, the new Veocel Lyocell fibers are reported to be a sustainable and botanic alternative to the current synthetics and also provide enhanced absorbency and natural smoothness.
Not only do the Veocel Lyocell fibers claim to be eco-friendly and sustainable, in recent tests the products have been shown to reach 90% disintegration within 30 minutes – which far surpasses the flushability guidelines set in place by INDA today.
“We take a proactive approach and lay the foundation for flushable wet wipes that combine convenience with environmental responsibility, so that we can bring optimal quality and performance to flushable nonwoven products, as well as other nonwoven segments” – Wolfgang Plasser, vice president of Global Business Management Nonwovens, Lenzing AG.
Read the full article here.
photo credit: Fox News & Charleston Water System
A Grim Warning from South Carolina Officials
Now here’s an example of Sewage Superheroes! Scuba divers were tasked to take a deep dive into raw sewage to unclog the system. After navigating down about 80 – 90 feet down through sewage, they discovered a monster of a clog primarily comprised of flushable wet wipes.
How did it get so bad! Culprit: “Flushable” Wipes. Not so flushable! The Charleston Water System of North Carolina, warns local residents of the impact these wipes are having to the sewage system. Their advice is simple: “Don’t flush stuff like this.”
Read more about the excursion here
Wet Wipe Flushability – The million dollar topic in the Plumbing and Wastewater industry today
Terry’s Plumbing, a company in Pittsburg, PA was curious to find out the answer for themselves and set out to follow the path of wet wipes from start to finish.
First off, why are wet wipes suddenly all the rage? There’s two main reasons: convenience and comfort/cleanliness – both factors that users claim to experience from their usage in the restroom. So what makes them so harmful? While convenience and comfort for the consumer are a huge plus, the risks out weigh the benefits. The harm being done to sewer systems around the world is not only very costly to cities, but the increase in waste from the thick wet wipes is piling up in and causing dangerous backup and sewage spills.
What did Terry’s Plumbing find in their exploration of the wet wipe life cycle? Sure, if you’re talking literally about a single wipe being able to physically move down the drain, then yes, it’s flushable. However, once the wipe reaches underground pipes it has the potential of getting stuck during transit on infiltrating tree roots in the ground. Unlike regular toilet paper, which breaks down in less than a day of being submerged in water, the wet wipes don’t dissolve for many months, causing the build up in the resident’s yard even before it can get to the treatment facility.
Should the wet wipes make it past this point, they will eventually reach the local sewage treatment plant. Typical city infrastructure isn’t designed to handle large amounts of trash and other unflushables – and this is where the expensive clogs happen. Wet wipes mix together with fats, oils, grease and trash and these clumps continue to build up for years on end. To date, the largest fatberg buildup was 15 tons and the size of a large school bus.
The fact that many of these wipes are being marketed as flushable, keeps them competitive with their paper rival as users are not forced to find some alternative means of disposing of them.
Continue reading the article here.
Two representatives from EurEau, the voice of Europe’s drinking water and wastewater service operators, Oliver Loebel and Maxime Bineau, discuss the growing concern with plastics polluting the water supply and the problem wipes serve in the debacle.
“The SUP [Single Use Plastics] Directive proposed by the European Commission is an opportunity to mitigate marine plastic pollution, and improve the general state of our environment. While this goal is laudable, effective measures are also needed to prevent another kind of insidious pollution, closer to the European consumer.”
The article goes on to challenge the Directive as it points out its flaws in failing to combat a major source of plastics in the water – “flushable” wet wipes: “The SUP Directive fails to tackle the impact of some SUP on our waste water infrastructure. Some plastics can find their way through water pipes through user behaviour or inappropriate labelling by manufacturers.”
Loebel and Bineau point out the fact that many manufacturers falsely advertise wet wipes as “flushable”, when in reality the majority of the products contain plastic fibers to help them resist breakdown in aqueous solutions. In fact, in the UK, 75% of identifiable pipe-clogging material was found to be from wet wipes alone. The authors also bring up an important point – even if wipes were indeed able to break down once flushed, they would still pose a significant threat to marine life and human health- “If wet wipes really were to decompose as claimed by manufacturers, they would release a substantial amount of micro-plastics into waste water, contaminating sewage sludge or worse, be emitted directly into the environment.”
Read the full article here.
“Upcoming Growth Opportunities and Industry Trends Insights through 2017-2026”
Fact.MR recently published a Market Research report that attempts to forecast the future of the Wet Wipes industry. Let’s break down some important key components of the report:
- There’s a wipe for everything: skincare (makeup removing, anti-acne, anti-aging, soothing, etc.), bathroom care, specialty wipes for men (and their beards), pet care, home and auto cleaning and many more. Companies that used to only offer one type of wipe are now venturing into various profitable markets and offering new types of wipes to many industries.
- “Convenience and portability associated with packaging of consumer wet wipes are considered to be imperative factors influencing their purchases, as compact packaging, such as travel packs, enhances portability and reduces the overall cost of the product”- Abhishek Budholiya, Tactical Business
- Online retailing is expected to be a huge factor in the forecasted increase in wet wipe sales
- Fact.MR estimates that more than 394,000 thousand units of consumer wet wipes are expected to be sold across the globe by 2026-end
So, what is the takeaway from all of this for wastewater/environmental industry enthusiasts? We know and understand the damages and labor associated with un-doing the mess caused by flushed wipes in our sewer systems. In order to protect our pipes from further damage while the wet wipe industry continues to grow we must:
- Push for proper labeling (no more “flushable”!)
- Urge wide-spread acceptance and use of trash bins in all restroom stalls, regardless of gender
- Educate communities on proper wipes disposal (in the trash bin, not the toilet!)
- Inform the public about the consequences and dangers of flushing wipes and all other non-flushables to pipes and treatment facilities
- Equip our treatment facilities with the proper tools to combat the potential influx of wipes in our pipes
Read the article here.
Catering companies rely on quick, effective, and portable cleaning methods, so it’s no surprise that for their ease of use, food service teams around the globe turn to wet wipes and pre-moistened cleaning cloths. From moist hand wipes and napkins to industrial antibacterial cloths for the bathroom and kitchen, wipes are a favorite in this industry. In a recent survey conducted by Lanes Group, a staggering number of individuals reported to not disposing of wipes properly, despite knowing their harmful effects on sewer systems; 31% of surveyed individuals admitted to flushing wipes down the toilet and a staggering 52% claimed that they were very aware of the dangers in this practice.
“…we know that people are doing this [flushing wipes] on a large scale, and many problems that our engineers deal with at catering venues are the result of blockages caused by inappropriate products being flushed down toilets – rather than being disposed of in a bin.”
Michelle Ringland, head of Marketing for the drain cleaning and repair specialist, Lane Group, encourages catering managers and teams to begin making a change and starting with themselves. She recommends educating staff on the matter in order to lead to a ripple effect, “Informing cleaning staff of the correct way to dispose of single-use wipes and highlighting the risks of flushing could have an immediate impact on the problem.” In conjunction with education, Michelle suggests that new facility changes be made to ensure compliance: disposal units in bathroom stalls for personal hygiene items, and reusable cleaning cloths that are color coded for the area and solution they are to be used on. Not only does this cut down on waste and eliminate plumbing clogs, it’s also a more cost effective solution to the expensive disposable cloths.
Read more the full article on Catering Today.
100-Foot Mass Excavated from Major Metropolitan City Sewer
Another massive fatberg has reared its ugly head in a major city in the United States – but this time, the city of Detroit plans to use it as a huge teaching lesson. Earlier this month, public works officials in Macomb County discovered a 100-foot long, 11-foot wide, and 6-foot tall clump of baby wipes, fat and grease imbedded into the sewer; the largest fatberg ever recorded in the 27 cities and townships that make up Macomb County in Michigan.
But this story has a happy ending: public works officials plan to display the fatberg at an upcoming press conference at the Clintondale Pump Station in efforts to educate homeowners and businesses about the dangers of flushing wipes and other non-flushables down the sewers.
Read the full story, here.
Retail giants Target, Walmart, Costco and CVS are under fire after multiple allegations of “flushable” moist wipes clogging sewers.
A homeowners association located in New York claims that several brands of wet wipes have single-handedly caused the state $18 million in damages PER YEAR. The HOA is suing the manufacturers and retailers until the labels on the packages are removed or until the wipe composition is changed to actually be flushable.
Read the full article here.
UK to introduce sanitary bins to men’s restrooms after wet wipes wreak havoc in London’s Victorian sewage pipes.
Surprise! Men, you may begin seeing sanitary bins in public restrooms across the UK very soon. In the past, trash receptacles were believed to only be necessary in women’s restrooms for sanitary product disposal. However, after the damage that London has experienced recently with the fatberg clog in London’s Victorian sewage system, the Greater London Assembly’s Environmental Committee has deemed it necessary to begin introducing trash receptacles into men’s restrooms to provide a place to toss their wet wipes and non-flushables.
“Across the UK, more than 11bn wet wipes are used a year, up by a quarter from five years ago, and many people are unaware that they can’t be flushed. About 4bn disposable nappies are used, and sales of unflushable incontinence products, for men as well as women, has gone up by 50% to more than 1bn a year as the population ages. And in most public loos and toilets in restaurants, bars or offices, men have nowhere to dispose of such items except down the pan.”
Read the full article.
Utility company, Welch Water, heads underground for deep excavations in the city of Cardiff Bay to begin 5 month fatberg clearing project.
A giant greaseball mixed with trash, including wet wipes, has clogged the city sewer in Cardiff Bay, Wales. Engineers are launching the excavation project of the underground clog which is said to cost a whopping £2million and take approximately 5 months to clear.
During this extended period of time, Welch Water warns nearby businesses of possible odor problems as they work to remove the blockage.
Sewage clogs from fatbergs and wet wipes cost the UK approximately £80million per year to clear the obstructions.
What exactly are ‘Fatbergs’?
Fatbergs are blockages made up of flushed fat, oil, grease and other flushed waste such as wet wipes and illegal drugs. They form into huge concrete-like slabs and can be found beneath almost every UK city, growing larger with every flush. They also include food wrappers and human waste, blocking tunnels – and raising the risk of sewage flooding into homes.
Read the full article, here:
A group of researchers in the UK analyzed the materials in ‘Flushable’ Wet Wipes and came to an astonishing conclusion.
Hemda Garelick, professor of chemistry at Middlesex University, led her team of research scientists on an in-depth study of the materials used in wet wipes labeled as ‘flushable’. The team originally conducted the study to confirm that the components of the products were biodegradable, as advertised. For wipes to be truly flushable, they must contain only cellulose, a form of wood pulp that is biodegradable.
The result of the study came as a shock as the scientists uncovered polyester, high-density polyethylene and polyethylene/vinyl acetate (AKA plastic) in some of the wet wipes labeled as ‘flushable’.
What’s more: Not only does this microplastic fiber contribute to the detrimental sewage clogs in the world today, it’s also going full circle and ending up in oceans and then being consumed by us humans in the seafood we eat.
Read the full article, here.
New industry study finds that ninety percent of sewer blockages are caused by wet wipes….(Yep, you read that correctly).
So who’s the biggest offender? An investigation in the UK uncoded the mystery; of 54 sewer blockages, 45.52% were caused by an “unidentified mass of wipes”. Of the rest, 41.41% were caused by baby wipes and 5.07% by surface and cleaning wipes.
And while Water UK appreciates that retailers are taking the initiative to re-label their wipes as non-flushable, they still say that more needs to be done on their part to save our sewers.
What’s more? It comes as no surprise that while we’re seeing these wipes in our sewers, they’re also showing up as undisposed trash on our beaches.
Groups like the Marine Conservation Society have reported big increases in wet wipe litter on beaches. Those containing polyester break down, fueling the problem of microplastic pollution of the environment and sea.
Read the full article here.
Wet wipes and other unflushables (read: garbage that people tend to think is ok flush down the toilet) are wrecking havoc on municipal sewer systems. But with the increase in personal wipes usage and the growing popularity from convenience of wipes, people often disreagard the “Don’t Flush” warning and do it anyways. But what happens when we flush wipes, and what makes them not flushable?
The biggest problem with the wipes is that they are “nondispersible,” which means they will not break apart as soon as the toilet is flushed and completely break up within five minutes, like toilet paper does. These products are made of nonwoven fabrics manufactured by entangling fibers in a sheet or web structure and bonding them mechanically, chemically or thermally. The fibers are not knitted or woven as conventional fabrics are. This makes them very durable, and that is great for many other uses, but not good for flushing down the toilet.
Marked flushable or not, the only things meant to be safely flushed down the toilet is human waste and toilet paper. To reduce the urge to throw anything else in the toilet, try keeping a trash can next to it in the restroom. That way you are reminded daily and have another convenient option right in front of you!
Read the full article here.
Yep, you read that correctly… a 250-meter-long mass weighing 130 metric tons has blocked a Victorian-era sewer tunnel in the east side of London.
The mass is a concrete-hard amalgamation of flushed items, including condoms, diapers, and—most notably—wet wipes that have all been cemented together with oils and fats that were also washed down drains. It is expected to take 3 weeks to remove the entire mass from the sewer tunnel. And while this may be the largest fatberg reported to date, there are some close runners-up: In 2013, English authorities found a 10-metric-ton “bus-sized” fatberg in another English sewer that cost £400,000 to remove.
When asked for their input on the matter, the wipes industry quickly turned the spotlight away from themselves by claiming that the “flushable” items go through rigorous tests and are not the problem- they say the clogs are caused by other items that are being flushed down that were never intended to be flushed in the first place. However, the people directly dealing with the problem have quite a different outlook:
“It’s an exaggeration to say that it’s not the flushable wipes causing the problems,” – Cynthia A. Finley Director of regulatory affairs, National Association of Clean Water Agencies
Read the full article, here.
The wet wipe industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, all while problems at wastewater treatment plants are becoming near impossible to flush away.
Technical Service Manager, Bill Cyrus, of a northern Texas wastewater treatment plant comments on the problem first hand:
“The rag issue is going up, up, up, up, up. That industry has gone up exponentially in the last five to six years.”
Meanwhile – the wipes industry has been struggling along side lawmakers in deciding what flushable really means. Now that the issue is in the hands of the federal court, Kimberly-Clark is clapping back against labeling laws saying that it’s not flushable wipes that are causing the problem, it’s non-flushable wipes and trash causing the mayhem. According to the wet wipe giant, they have spent nearly two decades and millions of dollars on creating a flushable wipe made of wood pulp, instead of plastics, that break down and disperse after they’ve been flushed. Sadly, according to Bill Cyrus, while some of the wipes do in fact degrade, the majority of these wipes deemed “flushable” still aren’t good enough and they’re making matters worse.
Read the full story, here.
Shitten Mittens might be a joke to some but those in wastewater treatment plants, Shittens can cause major concerns. The non-flushable gloves used for baby blowouts are flushed down our sewage systems creating giant fatbergs. Yes, poop is gross but giant fatbergs clogging our sewer systems is even worse! The only way to get rid of these giant fatbergs is to educate the public on how harmful non-biodegradable material is to our sewers.
Next time you flush a “non-flushable” wipe down the toilet think twice – its a toilet, not a trash can!
Read the full article here.
The wet wipes industry has been under fire in the past few years. The most recent lawsuit in D.C. that has landed on Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s desk is cautionary labeling of flushable and non-flushable wipes. Boasberg issued a preliminary injunction preventing a single manufacturer to be targeted by the labeling law and stated that it was violating the First Amendment.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson was surprised by the ruling and said “It’s no more of a First Amendment issue, I would think, than telling tobacco companies what they have to put on packages of cigarettes,” Mendelson said.
Read the full article here.
The multibillion-dollar wet wipes industry has been expanding in the recent decade. All the non-flushable wipes being flushed down the toilet are creating huge issues for the wastewater systems across the nation.
Many people use the wet wipes for convenience but fail to realize the consequences once the wipes have been flushed down the toilet. The combination of grease, wipes, hair and other items create “Fatbergs”, which are massive globs of congealed cooking fat with wipes, and they are taking over!
The federal court has recently been involved with whether to classify wipes as flushable or non-flushable and how to label them correctly. Hopefully, in the coming year, the federal courts will help to minimize the wipes problem.
Read the full article here!
With over 300,000 sewage blocks per year in the UK and counting, it is time to make a change on how we dispose of “non-disposable” products. Many are avoiding the warning signs and fail to realize that 93% of all sewage clogs are from “non-disposable” wipes. Baby wipes, surface wipes and feminine hygiene wipes are just a few categories that are creating these massive clogs. Not only is it causing a nasty mess but the sewage spills are impacting the environment. Do you want raw sewage in your community? Next time you flush wipes, remember, it’s a toilet, not a trash can!
Read more about this topic dailymail.com or burtonmail.com.
While flushable wipes are a convenient and easy answer for users, they cause big problems for local utility workers and an even BIGGER problem for the sewage lines! It is time to start sticking to your 3 Ps people! Tens of thousands of dollars are spent in Clark County Water Reclamation District unclogging sewage lines from flushable wipes annually and the Clark County is tired of it! “The reclamation district has a campaign aimed at educating the public about not flushing wipes and other items like prescription pills called Pain in the Drain.” Read more about it here….
A fatberg in the Baltimore sewage system got a mention in a recent “Saturday Night Live” “Weekend Update” segment. “Maintenance workers in Baltimore say they have cleared an 140-ton ‘fatberg’ from the sewer system, which is made up of congealed fat and waste that will not break down,” “Weekend Update” host Colin Jost said. “So good news, Baltimore: The McRib is back.” The Baltimore fatberg has been growing and was recently contributed to a 1.2 million gallon sewage overflow. Work is in process to upgrade and to increase the capacity of the Baltimore sewer collection and treatment systems to prevent these types of overflows in the future.
Read more HERE.
The flushable wipes industry is going to court over a new D.C. law mandating wipes can be labeled “flushable” only if they break apart in a short period of time after being flushed in typical sewer conditions. Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which manufacturers Cottonelle, Scott Naturals and Pull-Ups flushable wipes alleges the law is unconstitutional because it tries to regulate businesses beyond the city. The law takes effect January 1, 2018 and comes in response to the more than $50,000 a year D.C. Water spends to clear clogs caused by wipes with additional expenses to repair equipment damages by the wipes. Learn more here…
The City of Perry, Iowa has dropped its class action lawsuit against flushable wipes producers.
Since the lawsuit filing in 2015, Perry has not experienced any clogs or increased maintenance costs attributable to flushable wipes. Perry also admitted that none of its personnel were able to identify any flushable wipes manufactured by select companies in the city’s plumbing or wastewater systems. Perry dropped the lawsuit without receiving any compensation for alleged damages. Dave Rousse, president of INDA, the Association of Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, states “years of testing and field collection studies have shown that flushable wipes are not causing municipal clogs or increased maintenance.”
Recent collection studies in New York City, Maine, and California corroborated the statement. Those studies showed more than 98% of the items examined were not labeled or designed to be flushed, including baby wipes, surface cleaning wipes, paper towels as well as additional trash items. INDA is committed to educating consumers about proper disposal of non-flushable wipes through improved labeling and educating customers of the consequences of flushing these products.
So, wipes remain a problem for sewer system – and the flushable wipes industry wants to clarify that it is the non-flushable wipes that cause those problems.
Read more here.
ALDI was scheduled to offer Green Action Flushable Bathroom Cleaning Wipes this week as a special buy. Its promotion sparked outraged feedback on ALDI Australia’s Facebook page where customers posted comments imploring others not to buy the wipes as they are not flushable. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) also expressed their concern to ALDI. The ACCC is already pursuing alleged misleading flushable claims in federal court against Pental and Kimberly-Clark Australia Pty Ltd. While ALDI is standing by the flushable label as the product has passed INDA/EDANA flushability and biodegradability tests, they are bowing to social pressure to not sell the product.