Flushable Wipes account for less than two percent of debris identified in forensic studies of clogs and accumulations in sewer systems. Non-flushable products, like baby wipes and paper hand towels, often make up the largest portion of these debris.
According to data from the California State Water Resources Control Board Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Reduction Program, 73 percent of all sanitary sewer overflows in California are caused by tree roots, fats, oils and grease (“FOG”), as well as debris.
Wipes labeled “flushable” are specifically engineered to be flushed. Flushable wipes exclusively use tree- or plant-based fibers that are manufactured using advanced non-woven technology to allow the wipes to maintain wet strength in the package and during use, then lose strength and break apart after flushing. This function is compatible with wastewater infrastructure and processes, as well as safe for plumbing and sewer systems.
The industry has developed a rigorous set of flushability tests for products that may be labeled “flushable” that provide a holistic assessment of physical and biological material characteristics required for a product to be compatible with wastewater plumbing, infrastructure and treatment.
Wipes labeled “flushable” DO NOT contain plastic. The fibers in these wipes are made from exclusively tree- or plant-based materials.
Other categories of wipes – such as baby wipes, surface/sanitizing wipes and hand-and-face wipes – should NOT be labeled “flushable”. Baby wipes are designed to be thrown away in a diaper pail or wrapped in a disposable diaper and tossed in the trash. Surface/sanitizing wipes typically are designed with more vigorous wiping strength and contain cleaning solutions, which require them to be disposed in the trash.
“Flushable” is a very specific term for products uniquely designed to pass established industry testing. Flushable wipes are designed and labeled specifically for toileting purposes with the intention to be flushed.
Just because an item can be flushed, does not mean it should be. Many hygiene products used in the bathroom are flushed out of convenience, but they should not be. Baby wipes, paper hand towels, tampons and dental floss are items frequently found in forensic studies of sewer system clogs or accumulations. These items are not designed to be compatible with sewer systems or wastewater treatment technology, therefore they should not be flushed down the toilet.
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