Sewer systems all over the globe are fighting a new menace; disposable wet wipes. In recent years, these wipes have begun creating clogs in both house pipes and municipal sewers. Fixing these issues is costing a great deal of money, and some people have filed lawsuits to put pressure on manufacturers. Lawmakers are also in talks to introduce legislature to regulate the products and reduce local government expenses.
The Department of Environmental Protection in New York is among those pushing for regulation. It is currently spending $10 million annually just to manage the cloths trapped in the sewers. With the demand for wipes growing 7% per year, the DEP hopes that this intervention can mitigate the problem before it’s too late.
The Impact at Home
According to our plumbers in Orange County, even the disposable wet wipes that are marketed as being “flushable” should not go down your drain.
“The problem with wet wipes is that it could take them weeks or months to disintegrate, where as normal toilet paper will disintegrate in a matter of hours. The clogs that we’ve seen from wet wipes can be very expensive to repair. If you feel like you need to use them, we recommend throwing them in the trash instead of flushing them” said one emergency plumber in Ladera Ranch.
Clearing Up the Confusion
Some consumers are aware of the issues but they may not be properly equipped to handle the matter. There is much confusion over the materials that can be flushed down the drains and those that can’t. The marketing language used by manufacturers makes things even harder to distinguish.
Companies are conscious about the demand for disposable wipes so some label their products as “flushable”. They may do it to boost sales without any solid proof for their claim. Shoppers purchase these thinking that they are being responsible, but they end up contributing to the chaos, and potentially damaging their own plumbing.
Some international trade organizations have sought to clean up their own ranks by publishing a voluntary code of practice. This encourages manufacturers to mark non-flushable wipes with a clear “Do Not Flush” logo. While laudable, the vagueness of the code has allowed companies to take shortcuts.
The absence of an assigned area means that the logo can be placed anywhere. Some choose to put it at the back. Others hide it beneath the flap or in the fine print. A bill in New York aims to stop these deceptive practices. Instructions will have to be more prominent. Nonfactual claims will be fined.
Government Regulation vs Self-regulation
The lawsuits launched against manufacturers are making the industry take labelling more seriously. No one wants to have a bad reputation and pay hefty fines if these are avoidable. Legal restrictions are also being eyed in a number of states. However, the industry has strong lobbyists that frustrate the efforts.
Finley is not convinced that government regulation is the way to go given the sluggish process. Bills take time to pass and implement. They are also hard to change. These aren’t ideal when dealing with such a dynamic industry. Donovan Richards, a New York City Councilman, has a different take. He does not believe in self-regulation as companies have been sluggish in dealing with the problems. Both agree that public awareness needs to be raised in order to achieve meaningful progress.