The U.S. has an aging sewer infrastructure, and cities around the country are struggling to fund improvements. Making matters worse: so-called “flushable” wet-wipes and hygiene products are damaging private and public sewer systems around the country.
Now the nation’s largest producers of these flushable wipes, including Procter and Gamble Company (Charmin), KimberlyClark Corporation (Cottonelle), Nice-Pak Products, Professional Disposables International, Tufco Technologies, and Rockline Industries are all named as defendants in a class action lawsuit in federal court.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission dealt a blow to these companies and other advertisers when it approved a consent order against Nice-Pak Products for making deceptive claims about its line of flushable products. Specifically, the FTC claims the company violated Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act by making misleading claims.
However, these aren’t the only brands that will be affected. Many companies, including Nice-Pak, allow major retailers like Costco and Target to sell the same wipes under their own branding.
In cities like New York with large water treatment plants, nonwoven sanitary products like these build up and clog screens, pipes, gears, and other water treatment equipment. They also pose a danger to residential plumbing as well. Most residential sewer pipes are six inches in diameter or less. When trees are planted within 10 feet of sewer pipes, tree roots intrude at the pipe joints, creating a net that gathers the wipes and causes expensive plumbing problems.
According to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, flushable wipes caused $18 million in damage to the city’s aging sewage system in the last three years alone. The city council is considering passing legislation to ban the marketing of these products within the city limits until the class action lawsuit moves forward.
In addition, both private citizens and municipalities across the country are filing suits of their own.
Representatives from the non-woven fabrics industry association, which represents some of the companies named in the lawsuit, said the fault lies elsewhere. The association claims the majority of damage comes from other products, like paper towels and baby wipes.