The International Water Service Flushability Group (IWSFG) has revised its Consumer Flushability Guidelines to further define key aspects about what makes a product suitable to be flushed down the toilet.
Disposable wet wipes, often falsely labelled as “flushable wipes”, are one of the main culprits of multi-million-dollar blockages in infrastructure across Canada every year. The products are unable to quickly break down into smaller pieces and often contain plastic or regenerated cellulose or materials that do not readily degrade in most natural environments.
Defined through the International Organization for Standardization, the 2020 update to the 2018 Publicly Available Specification (PAS) comes on the heels of a critical review process by water utility representatives with expert knowledge of the sewerage system and how to protect it. The update also helps to clearly define the appropriate testing methods that should be used on products such as personal hygiene wipes, or baby wipes, to determine safe flushability.
Flushability criteria consists of toilet and drain line clearance; disintegration; settling; and bio-disintegration.
Robert Haller, executive director of the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, says the PAS update provides a base from which Canada can develop its own flushability standards.
“The internationally agreed upon specification is a great step forward,” Haller announced in a statement.
The IWSFG specification is supported by national water utility organizations in Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the U.S.
Haller noted that if Canada was willing to adopt a national flushability standard, it could also provide clarity around the product labels that consumers should look for to ensure the wipes meet the appropriate criteria.
The IWSFG notes that wipes manufacturer Albaad may have the first product that passes the new Flushability Specification with its “HydroFine S2F”. If verified, the company could utilize IWSFG’s newly-updated consumer label for its product. The new label states “IWSFG 2020” and shows a more internal view of the toilet than its predecessor, while adding a green check mark.
One of the primary updates to the testing for the flushability standard is to increase the temperature of the disintegration test by approximately 5°C to 20°C. “The temperature increase accommodates better controlled conditions in laboratories,” the specification update notes.
Other updates for the testing involves a more clearly defined pre-treatment step to improve the reproducibility of the method, as well as defining a pour time from the test’s slosh box to improve reproducibility. The IWSFG is also recommending that pass/fail criteria for the test be reduced slightly to address concerns over test variability.
In summer 2019, Canada’s Competition Bureau announced an inquiry into some of the claims made by wipes manufacturers regarding the flushability of their products.