work on these regulations. The hope is that creating a clear
definition of flushability and partnering with certified laboratories—in Europe and the U.S.—will help free wipes from
While the initial two sets of guidelines provide a three tier
set of guidelines to determine flushability, the next round of
guidelines will reportedly streamline down to one tier, making
a standard set of testing to deem a product flushable. While
the simplification is the biggest change in these guidelines,
INDA officials say there will also be a number of more subtle
changes to help defend the wipes, and the testing method
from further scrutiny.
As we wait for these guidelines to be finalized, HPCW sat
down with INDA director of technical affairs Steve Ogle on his
association’s latest efforts when it comes to flushable wipes.
NWI: Please discuss INDA’s recent efforts with the flushability guidelines? How will the next round of changes make
the document different than the existing document?
S.O.: The nonwovens industry undertook the initiative to
develop guidelines for assessing flushability between 2004
and 2008 when the first edition was published. Until that time,
there was not a consistent or widely accepted definition of
what constituted a ‘flushable’ nonwoven consumer product. As
a result, companies used their own definitions and methods to
determine the flushability of their products. End users and
other stakeholders had no single reference from which to
assess the flushability of products. This lack of consistency
can lead to confusion in the marketplace and a lack of clarity
for when it is appropriate for products to be disposed of via the
We knew the guidance would require a living document
capable of change. The second edition was published in
2009 from what we learned while working with Waste Water
Treatment (WWT) Professionals in the Netherlands, the US
and the UK. We are also learning from using the guidance
and edition three will be significantly different. It drops the
tiered testing approach for a straight line systems testing
scheme. This approach maintains the best of the testing
methods that comply with the real world disposal pathway
and requires a yes / no answer to each question of compliance along that pathway. As a result, this edition will be much
easier to use for labs and manufacturers and easier to
understand by all stakeholders.
NWI: Why did you guys feel it was necessary to make
S.O.: While working with the WWTs we have learned that a
common issue for all is the clogging of municipal pumps. By
adding a pump test as a requirement in the testing protocol,
we can assure that our products will not be the cause. The
change will also improve the stakeholders’ assessment
because of the straight-line approach.
NWI: Please describe (in depth) your efforts battling the
Maine legislation. What exactly would this legislation have
done? How harmful would it have been to the industry had
this legislation been passed?
S.O.: INDA and member companies met with lawmakers
and wastewater control agencies to explain how state-by-state regulation of flushability is premature. State regulation
cannot realistically keep up with innovation in wipes’ design
as well as the wastewater industry—both of which are
accounted for in INDA’s flushability guidelines. Legislation,
as proposed, would have fined companies for labeling products as flushable. These products are a very small volume of
consumer products and, as our studies have shown, not the
problem. This legislation may force makers to remove all
labeling related to the preferred disposal method leaving it
up to the consumer to decide. This would have made the
problem worse not better. After working with the WWT professionals and discussing the situation with legislators, the
Government stakeholders now seem to understand that the
consumer needs to be brought into the discussion about the
proper disposal of “do not flush” products. Shared responsibility for proper disposal of these products is the best
chance communities have for avoiding damage to wastewater
NWI: Are you seeing any similar laws crop up elsewhere?
S.O.: We first saw legislation proposed in California,
Holland, New Jersey, the UK and then Maine. To my knowledge,
no states or countries have yet enacted flushability legislation.
NWI: How important do you consider these guidelines to
be to the global wipes industry?
S.O.: The geographic scope of the guidelines include North
America and Europe. The methodology and science behind this
document might be a good starting point for other parts of the
world, but it would require a close study of their systems
before we could determine how applicable it would actually be.
NWI: Do you think there is a lot of room for flushable
S.O.: Yes, our data shows that of all the nonwoven products
made in North America only 0.5% are flushable moist toilet tissue (MTT). There is a lot of room for growth but all the products must be compatible with the guidance document.
NWI: Do you envision another round of changes after this?
S.O.: The guidance document was conceived as a living
document so that changes could be made. The nonwovens
industry is continually innovating. Changes in technology will
make MTT even more compatible with current sewer systems
and will necessitate changes to the document. The WWT and
collection systems are also continually improving to keep up
with the demands and needs of the growing residential areas.
That may also drive the need to make changes to the guidance