ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit www.NACWA.org for the latest NACWA information.
Summary of Proposed Agreement
Nice-Pak manufactures both flushable and non-flushable wipes for retailers that include Costco, CVS, Target, and BJ’s Wholesale Club. Wastewater utility concerns with Nice-Pak’s flushable wipes led to a 2012 meeting with Costco, the American Public Works Association (APWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and NACWA to discuss the problems caused by wipes that are flushed. Several months after this meeting, Costco began placing “do not flush” logos on certain wipes products and Nice-Pak subsequently changed the composition of its flushable wipes in 2014.
While the proposed agreement is focused on Nice-Pak’s old wipes and will not affect the Nice-Pak flushable wipes that are currently on the market, the agreement is still useful in defining the requirements the FTC believes must be met for a wipe to be labeled and marketed as flushable. The agreement specifies that the product should not have any misleading claim – “including through the use of a product name, endorsement, depiction, illustration, trademark, or trade name” – that it breaks apart shortly after flushing, that it dissolves or disperses in water, or that it is safe for sewer systems, septic systems, and household plumbing. These claims can only be made if there is “competent and reliable evidence” to substantiate the claim, including tests, analyses, research, or studies that:
"A. Demonstrate that the Covered Product disperses in a sufficiently short amount of time after flushing to avoid clogging, or other operational problems in, household and municipal sewage lines, septic systems, and other standard wastewater equipment; and"
"B. Substantially replicate the physical conditions of the environment in which the Covered Product is claimed, directly or indirectly, expressly or by implication to be properly disposed of; or if no specific environment is claimed, then in all environments in which the product will likely be disposed of.”
In response to the agreement, Nice-Pak has stated that “all claims related to our current flushable product portfolio are fully substantiated as safe to flush.”
Significance for NACWA’s Work on Wipes
In 2013, NACWA began its Toilets Are Not Trash Cans!TM campaign to focus on products that are inappropriately flushed into the sewer system, such as wipes, paper towels, and pharmaceuticals, as well as consumer products containing chemicals that can be harmful to wastewater treatment and the environment. As part of this campaign, NACWA has been working with WEF, APWA, and INDA (the trade association of the nonwoven fabrics industry) since 2013 to address the flushability issue and the inadequate labeling of wipes that are not flushable.
The wastewater associations do not believe that the current, voluntary industry guidelines for determining flushability are sufficient, as communicated by NACWA to INDA just before the guidelines were published in 2013. NACWA, WEF, APWA, and INDA formed a Technical Workgroup that met throughout 2014 to discuss flushability and determine a path forward for resolving the differences between the wastewater and wipes industries. The associations have now been joined by the Canadian Water & Wastewater Association (CWWA) and the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) to develop new flushability guidelines and begin a Product Stewardship Initiative to address proper labeling of all wipes and improve consumer education.
Although the FTC agreement with Nice-Pak will not affect the products produced by Nice-Pak currently on the market, it is still beneficial to NACWA’s efforts to reduce the problems caused by wipes because of its terms outlining how the company must substantiate its flushability claims. The tests in the current industry guidelines do not “replicate the physical conditions” of municipal sewer systems, which the FTC says is necessary to show flushability. The tests also allow too long for wipes to break down in water, rather than the “sufficiently short amount of time after flushing” to prevent problems in sewer systems and wastewater equipment specified by the FTC. This should help provide incentive for wipes manufacturers to ensure that any products they label flushable will actually be safe to flush, as well as provide a basis for any future claims against products that are inaccurately labeled flushable.
NACWA is drafting comments in support of the agreement to submit to the FTC by the June 19 deadline. NACWA’s comments will:
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