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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
It seems that the truly flushable wet wipes of the world are getting a bad rap from those that purport to be but aren't, and even from those that were never meant to be tossed into the potty. Apparently it makes no difference to the average mommy (or other skilled wiping person): job done, down the tube it goes.

A percentage of these little nonwoven, air-laid paper cleaning aids actually can claim the chemical and fiber makeups that enable them to dissolve much after the manner of toilet tissue in water. Not so the majority of them. Most moist wipes are engineered for much greater strength in water than tissue. If they were not, users would tear them in the simple act of removing them from their packages.

So downstream the little soiled devils go--until they encounter a blob of grease, with which they happily merge. The resulting glob grows bigger and bigger until it has formed a "fatberg," a sewer plug often weighing several tons. Fatbergs must be removed from the sewer system by means of machinery and labor (read money).

Dave Rouse, president of INDA, the association of the nonwoven fabrics industry said, "We all agree the problem is that over 90 percent of the items flushed are not designed to be flushed." This was one of the drivers behind the association's "World of Wipes" conference held recently in Atlanta. At this assembly, experts explored in-depth the problems caused by flushing moist wipes and proposed legislation to eliminate clogs from municipal sewer systems.

INDA has issued guidelines suggesting that manufacturers subject their products to certain test before declaring them flushable. The association suggests adding "Do Not Flush" logos to products that don't pass the tests.

On the other hand, Kimberly-Clark is giving a hard push to its "flushable cleansing cloths," that use a patented dispersible technology that allows them to lose strength and break up after flushing. Companies as big and powerful as K-C are not going to fade in the face of a problem, so expect them and others to whom flushability means revenue to do everything possible to lift their brand(s) above the sewer-clogging fight. Stay tuned.

Chuck Swann is the senior editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.

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