So-Called "Flushable Wipes": An Update

In April of 2014, the Spangenberg law firm sued national retailer Target and manufacturer of non-woven fabrics Nice-Pak on behalf of individuals who had purchased Target Up+ Up Brand Flushable wipes that, Plaintiffs claim, were not in fact “flushable” and instead caused damage to sewer and septic systems. That case remains pending, as do cases against a number of other manufacturers of so-called “flushable” wipes.

The cases all relate to essentially the same set of allegations – that the “flushable wipes” industry and have known for some time that their products do not actually disperse after flushing and that they can cause significant damage to plumbing and sewer systems. Companies like Nice-Pak, which manufactures “flushable” wipes for Target and Costco, among others, have nonetheless continued to introduce these products into the market with packaging that affirmatively suggests that purchasers flush the products. But a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) order will hopefully change that.

On May 22, 2015, it was announced that Nice-Pak entered into a consent agreement with the FTC that states that Nice-Pak will not make any representation that the wipes are safe for sewer or septic systems, will not clog household plumbing systems, are safe to flush, or are flushable, unless the representation is non-misleading and Nice-Pak has and is relying on competent and reliable evidence to substantiate those representations.

Assuming the consent order is finalized and Nice-Pak complies with the terms of the agreement, its flushable wipes will either be significantly improved or moving off the shelves. Either way, it is a hopeful sign that the “flushable wipes” lawsuits currently pending across the country are helping to promote change in the industry and that the federal government is equally concerned with the safety and stability of our waste removal infrastructure.

For now, it’s probably still best not to flush any wipe, whether it says it’s flushable or not – we still have not seen a product that we are sure is 100% sewer and septic safe. Maybe at some point that will change…but for now it’s better safe than sorry.

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