Wipe Out! Keeping Wipes Out of Pipes

wipe out wipes

Earlier this year, we reported that new Costco wipe packaging using the “Do Not Flush” logo had been sighted.  This updated packaging is now more widely available in stores, and it is a great example of effective labeling that can help educate consumers on how to properly dispose of these products.
Here is what the 4-cm logo looks like on the outside of the Kirkland brand baby wipes box:

wipes box

And this is what the 1.6-cm logo looks like on each individual package of wipes:


Contrast the Costco packaging to this other brand of baby wipes, with only the words “Do not flush” in small print on the back of the package:

Costco’s use of the “Do Not Flush” logos is extremely effective because the logos appear on the top of the box and individual wipes packages, where they are sure to be seen by the product user.  The logos also stand out because they are by themselves, without other print or pictures nearby.  

In addition to these logos, Costco has placed a 2.5-cm logo on the back of the box next to the UPC, and the product instructions state “Do Not Flush” in red letters.  Costco is also including a packaging card in boxes of wipes with general information about what should never be flushed.  The “Never Flush List” includes paper towels; baby, household cleaning, and facial wipes; dental floss, tampons, applicators, and sanitary pads; condoms; and cotton balls and swabs.  

NACWA commends Costco for redesigning its baby wipes packages with such clear and prominent use of the “Do Not Flush” logo, and for the additional educational information provided on the package card.  Last year, representatives from the American Public Works Association (APWA), Water Environment Federation (WEF) and NACWA met with Costco representatives to discuss the problems of wipes that are flushed into the sewer system.  The meeting was organized by Bobbi Wallace from the City of Kirkland, at the request of APWA Washington State Chapter members.  We appreciate Costco taking the time to meet with representatives from wastewater utilities and responding with this improved package labeling.

Costco’s baby wipes labeling goes above and beyond what is recommended by INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, in its Code of Practice.  The Code of Practice specifies use of the “Do Not Flush” logo on products that are not designed to be flushed, but that might be flushed anyway because of their function or area of use.  Costco’s “Do Not Flush” logos are larger than required in the Code of Practice, and their placement on the box and package tops is not required by the Code of Practice.  NACWA appreciates INDA encouraging manufacturers to use improved labeling on their products, and we hope that many manufacturers and retailers will take the extra steps that Costco has taken to be certain that the logos are clearly noticeable to consumers.  

Last month NACWA, WEF, APWA, and INDA met to discuss how the associations can work together to reduce the problems caused by wipes in sewer systems.  The associations will work on improved flushability guidelines, product labeling, and consumer education.  NACWA will also be reaching out to other industries whose products frequently end up in sewers and cause problems.  And of course, as seen by the recent “fatberg” discovered in the London sewer, sewer users still need education about the proper disposal of fats, oils, and greases (FOG).  By reducing all of the products and materials that are inappropriately disposed of in the sewer system, expensive clog and screen clogging problems can be prevented and utilities can avoid passing along the costs to their ratepayers.  


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