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INDA & EDANA create flush test.

After four years of work, involving some 40 companies, last month INDA and EDANA jointly introduced The Guidance Document on the Flushability of Nonwoven Consumer Products. The document contains guidelines representing the first-ever initiative to provide companies with a comprehensive framework for testing products to determine their flushability.

"An increasingly diverse range of disposable hygiene products is now available for consumer use in the home," said Rory Holmes, president of INDA. "Some, which address public health and hygiene considerations, may best be disposed of via the toilet. It is important to ensure that such products can be disposed of in this way without causing problems."

The document is the culmination of a four-year program of work sponsored by the two industry associations. Technical experts from member companies pooled their own company expertise and drew on the advice and knowledge of experts in academia, consultant engineering and the wastewater industry to develop the recommended approach. It is a first edition document that will be updated over time, in partnership with the wastewater industry and associated bodies, as new information comes to hand and new technologies emerge.

Companies involved in this effort ranged from roll goods producers targeting the wipes market, marketers of consumer products including wipes, converters of wiping materials and raw material producers. They participated in a joint INDA/EDANA taskforce which developed the standards.

"The development of the Guidance Document is one aspect of the industry's work in this important area," said Pierre Wiertz, EDANA general manager. "Concise, clear and consistent communications about whether products should be flushed down the toilet is equally important. Our members have agreed to develop a universal symbol for on-pack labeling which will provide consumers with at-a-glance information about whether the product is appropriate for disposal via the wastewater system."

The Why

INDA and EDANA set forth to develop these guidelines four years ago after hearing concerns from companies and agencies both within and outside of the nonwovens industry concerning the impact growing usage of wipes could have on wastewater treatment facilities and other parts of society's infrastructure. Some were becoming concerned that the fact there were no clear guidelines on what made a wipe flushable, not to mention some confusion over what exactly flushable is, could create a backlash against wiping products--and disposable products as a whole.

According to INDA/EDANA figures, wipes usage has increased 36% between 2001 and 2006 and, in particular the flushable wipes market has increased from $200,000 in 2001 to more than $500 million in 2008. And, even though products like baby wipes are designed not to be flushed, research showed that consumers were in fact flushing them.

Because there was no clear definition of flushability, flushable nonwovens were at risk of becoming the scapegoat for many other wastewater conveyance and treatment problems, creating the potential for flushable products to be banned, INDA/EDANA determined it was time for the industry to be proactive in addressing the challenges and concerns and to demonstrate corporate responsibility.

The bottom line basically is that wastewater system can be an appropriate means of disposing products but the disposer needs to be sure that the product they are flushing are compatible with the wastewater system.

Thus, a flushability task force was created jointly by the two organizations to establish a common definition of flushability for nonwoven-based products; promote sound, scientific testing methodology to address all key disposal pathways and ensure compatibility with wastewater collection and treatment.

The What

The committee spent four years developing the definition of flushability and establishing testing methods on how to deem a product worthy of this definition. For a product to be flushable it must clear toilets and properly maintained drainage pipe systems under expected product usage conditions; be compatible with existing wastewater conveyance, treatment, reuse and disposable system and become unrecognizable in a reasonable period of time and be safe in the natural receiving environments. Flushability does not equate to full biodegradability or dispersibility; environmental safety must be assured through environmental safety assessments.

Flushability is determined by what happens to the product at each stage of the waste disposable and treatment system--in the home or building and in the treatment facility. To be flushable, it must pass through the building's toilet and drain line system, be transported in wastewater conveyance systems and be compatible with wastewater treatment systems where they existed, or in some regions, discharges of untreated wastewater. These generic processes are basically similar throughout the world, although there may be some regional or national variations.

The How

The flushability guidance document contains flow charts of key questions that need to be answered for each route a product could follow post-flushing. The questions in the flow charts are answered by conducting a series of tests. Acceptance criteria for each test and for each question have been set; they either demonstrate compatibility with the disposable system or determine whether further testing would be required before flushability could be clearly established.

The testing approach used is based on three testing tiers, ranging from less complex and costly and more conservative to the most complex and costly and least conservative. Each tier contains a number of tests that need to be passed to achieve the definition of flushability as outlined in the standards.

The acceptance criteria for the Tier 1 laboratory tests are set conservatively high so they are challenging to pass. The acceptance criteria for the Tier 2 pilot-scale tests are conservative but less so than the Tier 1 criteria. Tier 3 testing is conducted in the field using fullscale systems. While it produces definite results because the acceptance criteria reflect actual performance, it is both time and resource intensive and is likely to be used only when Tier 1 and 2 level results are inconclusive.

The guidance document contains two examples of how the flushability assessment works in practice. The first demonstrates the assessment process for a nonflushable product; the second demonstrates the process for a product that is flushable.

The Next Step

While these standards are the result of years of hard work by key industry stakeholders with superior knowledge of flushability, it is not a litmus test for flushability. Companies must have specific knowledge about product technology, usage behaviors and understanding of conditions and equipment in geographical regions. Each company is responsible for their claims as INDA and EDANA will not certify flushability claims.

These standards and test methods will continue to be evaluated and improved as additional information is gathered and treatment technologies evolve. In fact, the organizations aim to develop additional test methods for assessing impact on pumpage equipment in sewers, seek to identify improved methods to mimic compromised household drains, consider implications of increased trend of treated wastewater reuse and work on on-pack labeling and consumer education so that only flushable products are flushed.

The guidance documents are free for INDA and EDANA members or it can be purchased online for $3000 at; Testing of Tier 1 and 2 can be arranged via NSF International, Ann Arbor, MI; Rockline Industries

Definition of Flushability

* clear toilets and properly maintained drainage pipe systems under expected product usage conditions

* be compatible with existing wastewater conveyance, treatment, reuse and disposal systems; and

* become unrecognizable in a reasonable period of time and be safe in the natural receiving environments.
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Title Annotation:Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry
Comment:INDA & EDANA create flush test.(Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry)
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Geographic Code:4EUBL
Date:Sep 1, 2008
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