Wipes Market Poised for Growth

By Karen Bitz-McIntyre, Nonwovens Industry, Associate Editor | September 27, 2013

This summer the disposable wipes market received two major coups that will help it grow in two important, and potentially profitable categories.

The first, of course, is the long-awaited, final solvent-contaminated wipes rule (better known as the “wiper rule”), which will help non-laundered wipes and rags better compete with laundered shop towels by exempting certain disposable wipes from hazardous waste rulings and subjecting certain shop towels to these standards when containing certain solvents.

In writing this ruling, which replaces a controversial ruling established in the 1970s, the EPA heeded concerns voiced by the nonwovens industry, which had been challenging the rule for decades. Assuming these standards are met, users of non-laundered wipes will necessarily be subject to federal regulations, making their products more attractive options for cleaning in industrial settings. Industry watchdogs feel that widespread adoption of the ruling, which was finalized July 31, could create new marketing opportunities for makers of non-laundered wipes by neutralizing their competitors’ arguments that their products are not subject to federal regulation.

The second milestone is the third edition of the flushability guidelines, developed by INDA and EDANA. The two associations have been working tirelessly on establishing, and revising, these guidelines for more than a decade to help stave off concerns that the disposable wipes industry is responsible for clogging sewers and other public water systems.

The latest guidance document, which was revealed in June during the World of Wipes conference streamlines and improves on previous editions. For example, it replaces the tiered approach of 23 tests with a more transparent, rigorous straight-line assessment using only seven core tests, which all must be passed to support a flushable claim. Additionally, INDA/EDANA have updated the accompanying Code of Practice to include clearer labeling guidelines as well as a single “Do Not Flush” logo. The organizations hope that more makers of wipes not meant for flushing, such as baby wipes, use this logo to better inform the consumers and help address concerns about potential legislation.

With several states, including California, Maine and New Jersey already drafting legislation against the wipes industry, the industry hopes these efforts will shift the blame for clogs and breakages away from wipes. These efforts are being cemented with INDA’s cooperation with the NACWA (National Association of Clean Water Agencies), who will put together a technical advisory board to approach the differences between how different stakeholders define flushability.
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