By RFA Staff

Nov. 16, 2021

California can now put another arrow in its quiver in its fight to protect the environment and state infrastructure: a new law that educates consumers on what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet.

Specifically, the new legislation, supported by both environmental advocates and industry, establishes a disposal labeling requirement for wipe manufacturers to even more prominently label their products with “Do Not Flush” messaging.

The timing couldn’t be better. Household use of non-flushable wipes spiked as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – but so did sewage clogs when toilet paper shortages and the need for enhanced cleaning options led to the increased flushing of non-flushable alternatives – and it cost California taxpayers.

In 2019, non-flushable wipes resulted in an estimated $47 million in additional operating costs for utilities in California, according to NACWA. This number is all the more striking when one considers the additional costs from all other materials that cause clogs and backups.

You’d think knowing what to flush down your toilet would be intuitive. Unfortunately, it’s not. As wastewater professionals, industry and policymakers come together to design public awareness and education programs around smart flushing habits, the focus must be on changing behaviors for the long-term.

The change won’t happen overnight, but the good news is our communities want to play a role in changing their habits. In fact, a recent study revealed that nearly two-thirds of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable products but most (74%) don’t know how to identify them, let alone how to dispose of them. The new “Do Not Flush” labeling law now gives consumers the right guidance to help make non-flushable wipes going into the toilet a thing of the past.

California’s infrastructure is at a tipping point. The cost to maintain wastewater systems continues to grow with an already aging network of sewage pipes. The challenge is to not only invest in new infrastructure but also be good stewards of our existing systems. This new law is a step in the right direction to prevent unwanted clogs and protect our homes, our environment and save millions in yearly infrastructure costs.

In reality, the growing use of household wipes isn’t going anywhere. In fact, according to data from Nielsen, the purchase and use of all wipes rose 75 percent last year as more Americans continue to work from home and have made personal hygiene and household cleanliness greater priorities.

While there is no national policy on disposal labeling non-flushable products, early adopters of “Do No Flush” labeling standards like California are paving the way. We are also showing what is possible when industry and consumer advocates come together to create policy that is good for our economy, our communities and the environment.

About Responsible Flushing Alliance
The Responsible Flushing Alliance (RFA) is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization dedicated to consumer education focused on what should and should not be flushed. RFA’s goal is to change consumer behavior to help reduce damage to our nation’s sewage systems caused by objects and materials not designed to be flushed.

Responsible Flushing Alliance Coalition Members
Albaad, ANDRITZ, DUDE Products, Essity, First Quality, Georgia Pacific, Johnson & Johnson, Jacob Holm, Kelheim Fibres, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Nehemiah Manufacturing, Nice-Pak, Procter & Gamble, Rockline Industries, Sellars Nonwovens, and Suominen Corp.