London hosts ISO workshop on flushable wipes

plugged wastewater pump
Plugged pump at a pumping station in London, Ontario.

By Duncan Ellison and Barry Orr

Organized by the Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group (MESUG), City of London, Ontario, Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, Standards Council of Canada, and the International Standards Organization/ International Electrotechnical Commission, a May 5 workshop explored foreign objects in wastewater streams.

The workshop’s theme was “toilets not garbage cans.” Topics discussed included: the challenges of managing garbage and products labeled “flushable” being disposed of in the toilet; the consequences of flushing products not designed to pass through the collection and treatment systems; and the need to work with industry to develop better flushable products, standards and strategies to influence consumers.
The workshop featured Canadian and international wastewater management and collection system experts. Attendees included Canadian municipal staff trying to develop strategies for their own communities that are dealing with increased garbage material in sewers.

plugged wastewater pump
Plugged pump at a pumping station in London, Ontario.

Following the close of the workshop, two days were spent in the first face-to-face meeting of the ISO TC224 WG10. This group is tasked with determining how best to deal with the concerns wastewater representatives have raised with items identified as “flushable.”
There was a majority decision to make the scope cover both woven and non-woven products declared to be flushable.

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Wastewater participants focused on the need for any product declared flushable by manufacturers, to undergo flushability tests. If successful in those tests, products could then be legitimately identified as flushable. Manufacturing participants wanted to limit the group’s scope to non-woven products only.  Both groups said they accept the need for other products likely to be flushed due to their bathroom use, to be assessed for flushability. Where products fail such tests, they would be identified as “not flushable.”

Part of the concern raised was that the traditional tests set out by industry associations would not be applicable to products other than non-woven products. The working group’s wastewater participants said they are focused on developing a set of tests that would demonstrate any product’s flushability, i.e., disintegrate rapidly, settle, biodegrade and not clog pumps and grills, etc.

The workshop’s next meeting will take place in London, United Kingdom, October 28-30, 2015.

Duncan Ellison is convenor for the ISO 224 WG 10 on flushables. Barry Orr is the spokesperson for MESUG and Canadian member on ISO 224 WG10.

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