FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
D.C. Council Rushing to Pass Unenforceable Law Banning Flushable Wipes Without Necessary Research
Councilmember Mary Cheh proceeding with November 7 markup despite objections
WASHINGTON D.C., Nov. 4, 2016 – Washington D.C. City Councilmember Mary Cheh is rushing to pass the Nonwoven Disposable Products Act of 2016, resulting in an effective ban on the sale of Flushable Wipes in the District of Columbia. This legislation is proceeding without the necessary research, and could lead to dire unintended results in the DC Water system.
The bill would most likely hold the Flushable Wipes to a standard that does not currently exist and that no flushable wipe on the market today could meet, said INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, which opposes the legislation.
” This is a misguided bill being railroaded through the City Council without a proper diagnosis of any problem. If the availability of Flushable Wipes on the shelves of DC retailers is compromised, then retailers will be harmed, and many consumers will resort to non-flushable Baby Wipes for their personal hygiene needs. Flushable Wipes are highly engineered products that break up when flushed, sink in tanks, and degrade in the treatment systems. These are the products we should want consumers to use. Forcing them to use something NOT designed to be flushed will hurt the DC treatment systems. And if they buy the product they want out of DC, it will hurt DC retailers. No analysis has been done on what exactly is in the debris in the DC systems. So let’s pause and get the diagnosis right before passing another bad bill,” said Dave Rousse, President of INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry that represents the wipes industry.
Councilmember Cheh’s bill would prohibit manufacturers from labeling their wipes “flushable” without achieving new, non-specified standards to be drafted without wipes industry input. INDA already has such standards Flushable Wipes must pass to be marketed as “Flushable” and no wipe passing these standards has been shown to cause a problem.
The proposed bill creates an unfair and unreasonable burden that would likely constitute a de facto ban on sales of flushable wipes in the District of Columbia. The bill was introduced in July. Since then, INDA has repeatedly asked Councilmember Cheh and DC Water to first have a forensic analysis conducted to determine what is actually in the District’s wastewater treatment stream.
New York City recently completed a similar analysis and found that flushable wipes composed only 2 percent of the waste stream. (See graphic below.) The majority of the waste stream was composed of non-flushable paper, such as paper towels (34 percent) and non-flushable baby wipes (38 percent) feminine hygiene products (7%) and non-flushable household wipes (19%).
The D.C. Council and DC Water have refused to conduct such an analysis in the District.
Despite calls from industry groups to pause the legislation, Councilmember Cheh has rushed forward, scheduling markup for Monday, November 7.
INDA’s concerns are two-fold: First, If District consumers are unable to purchase flushable wipes, they will use more non-flushable wipes like Baby Wipes, which do not break down in the waste stream, causing damage to DC Water pipes. Secondarily, the law is unenforceable on consumers. Nothing would prevent District consumers from purchasing flushable wipes in Maryland or Virginia or ordering them online.
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