Communications Guidance for Non-Flushables/Wipes Education and Outreach
Improper disposal of non-flushables has increased during our nationwide efforts to counter the COVID-19 virus. The content on this page provides information to address the concerns. We provide a variety of resources on our COVID-19 Resources page.
Wipes don’t break down when flushed. Many wipes labeled “flushable” when flushed will clog pipelines, pumps and cause sewage overflows in residences and the environment. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when we are encouraged to disinfect environments to prevent the spread of the virus, wastewater operators are concerned that there could be an increase in wipes use.
The EPA and other national organizations, as well as statewide and local wastewater agencies, are working to get the message out to avoid costly as well as environmental impacts of wipes in our sewer and treatment systems.
There is urgency in getting this message out now, especially as there has been a higher demand for disinfecting wipes, baby wipes and toilet paper. While wipes/non-flushable education has been a priority for our industry, this is an especially important time to educate the public, businesses, and officials on this important information and create behavior changes as we anticipate great use of wipes in this time.
Metro Vancouver created approachable and engaging artwork to support the Never Flush Wipes campaign, for posting and distribution by local government. A key message of the campaign: The only things that are okay to flush down the toilet are pee, poo, and toilet paper. Anything else wreaks havoc on our sewer system. Metro Vancouver’s “Unflushables” campaign aims to educate residents about the proper disposal of unflushables like: wipes (baby wipes, personal hygiene wipes and cleaning wipes), paper towels, medications, hair, tampons + applicators, floss and condoms. Unlike toilet paper, wipes don’t easily break down when flushed, even the ones labeled “flushable”. Once flushed, wipes can clog sewer lines, pumps and pipes in homes, causing sewage overflows into residences and the environment. This campaign asks residents to put wipes in the garbage, not the toilet.
The primary goal of outreach, especially led by local water/wastewater agencies, is to provide education and improve awareness of the fact that many wipes are inappropriately labeled as flushable and should not be flushed.
Many wipes are mislabeled stating they are ‘flushable,’ but this is not the case. ONLY toilet paper should be disposed of in your toilet. Focused outreach should help to change behaviors to reduce wipes in our wastewater systems.
- Elected officials
- General public
- Large business/industry
- Healthcare providers
- First responders
- Water/Wastewater Employees
- ONLY Toilet Paper Goes in Your Toilet! All wipes, facial tissues (‘kleenex’), paper towels, napkins and feminine products should be thrown in the garbage and not the toilet.
- Toilet paper is designed to break down and dissolve. All other paper products are made of sturdy, non-woven fibers that don’t break down like toilet paper and cause costly impacts to our wastewater systems, environment and sewer backups at residences.
- Many wipes, even ones that are labeled “flushable” clog sewer lines, pump stations, increase utility maintenance, and create environmental concerns through backups in residences and/or the environment.
- “Do Not Flush” labeling and disposal instructions on packaging for wipes NOT intended for flushing (i.e. baby wipes, cleaning wipes) are widely inconsistent among brands (Ryerson 2019).
- Even if a wipe breaks apart into fragments, the microscopic long fibers are not removed in wastewater.
- Only flush the 3Ps: “poo, pee, and toilet paper.” (egads)
- Clogs from wipes cause equipment damage, costing ratepayers millions, and compromise the safety of our wastewater treatment plant operators.
- EPA Campaign on Wipes
- EPA Encourages Americans to Only Flush Toilet Paper
- Non-flushables Communication Toolkit — document of this web page (pdf)
- Wipes Clog Pipes — direct mail postcard (pdf)
- Wipes Clog Pipes (Spanish) — direct mail postcard (pdf)
- Social media content – ranging from news articles to fun videos and informational images. Great idea to follow NEORSD’s Twitter account who is the leader in humor and educational posts.
- Think Before You Flush—Public Service Announcement: Klamath Falls (pdf)
- The Toilet is Not a Trash Can — billing insert fact card (pdf)
- The Toilet is Not a Trash Can (Spanish) — billing insert fact card (pdf)
- Trash It, Don’t Flush It Campaign: Clackamas Water Environment Services
- Never Flush Wipes campaign — Metro Vancouver
- Check out this excellent news spot from NEWS1 in Auckland, New Zealand
- Auckland’s wastewater facilities are straining over increased usage of wipes amid coronavirus pandemic.
- Check out this PSA, Toilets Are Not Trashcans Radio Spot: City of Florence
During these uncertain times with temporary shortages of personal hygiene products, such as toilet paper, individuals are turning to ‘flushable wipes.’ The City of Florence wants what you want: a clean water utility that is thriving, innovative and engaged with the community.
Toilets Are Not Trashcans. Products such as wipes, paper towels, and personal hygiene products should not be flushed. These products do not break down the way toilet paper does in our sewers. These products tend to create clogs which can lead to sewer backups and costly repairs. Remember, the only things that should be flushed down a toilet are pee, poop and toilet paper.
For your own efforts, consider utilizing these items to convey the message to your constituents and audiences that will be engaging and persuasive.
- Website content (please use any of the content on our site)
- Photos (for social media and print materials)
- Graphics (feel free to use what you see on our site, including the image above)
We provide a variety of resources for you on the COVID-19 Resources page.