Councilmember Cheh introduces the “Nonwoven Disposable Products Labeling Act of 2016”

The product labeling bill will protect the District’s sewer system and environment

Washington, D.C. —Today, July 12th, Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) introduced the “Nonwoven Disposable Products Labeling Act of 2016.” Complementing the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ current education campaign encouraging consumers not to flush specific products, the bill aims to protect the District’s sewer system by prohibiting the sale of products with misleading labeling that advertises products as “flushable”, “sewer safe”, or “septic safe.”


“There are a number of products, such as baby wipes, facial tissues, and household cleaning wipes, whose packaging indicates that it is safe to flush the product down the toilet. However, this disposal mechanism results in serious –and expensive– problems for the District’s sewer system,” said Councilmember Cheh.


A catchall term for these types of products is ‘nonwoven disposable wipes’ and, as these products do not dissolve quickly in water, they can easily clog pipes, leading to backups in basements and overflows into streams. Nonwoven disposable wipes often wrap around and stop the motors in the District’s sewer pipes which keep sewage flowing through the system. By the time these products arrive at the Blue Plains Treatment Plan, DC Water is forced to filter the wipes out of the system in order to prevent further damage to the plant.


“By mislabeling their products, manufacturers appeal to a customer’s desire for easy disposal of a cleaning product, but they are seriously damaging our infrastructure and environment. The Nonwoven Disposable Products Labeling Act will prohibit the sale of nonwoven disposables if they are advertised, packaged, or labeled as ‘flushable’ unless there is reliable evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, it requires those products that are not flushable to be labeled as “Do Not Flush”,” said Councilmember Cheh.


The Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) is authorized to issue rules to implement the new requirements set forth by the bill and impose civil fines and penalties violations.



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