The SFPUC Reminds You – Do Not Flush ‘Flushable’ Wipes

This month, General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), Harlan Kelly, Jr. sent a letter of support for a legislation that is close to heart for the agency: If passed, the legislation would require flushable wipe makers to include proper labeling on wipes packaging. This is a topic very closely monitored by SFPUC’s Wastewater Enterprise. Working with state legislators, the agency’s Policy and Government Affairs team has been tracking the legislation to make sure it provides the much needed relief for the City’s sewer system, as the agency’s priority is to protect public health and the environment. 

These so called “flushable” wipes can end up at the Wastewater Plants in San Francisco, resulting in equipment failures and other adverse impacts on a regular basis, with costly and time-consuming cleaning efforts. 

This photo shows a Bar Screen. These machines are used to sift out inorganic waste
material that often gets trapped in our wastewater system.

“It’s a good start. We need to educate the public on what is flushable and what is not. It’s hard to imagine the negative effects of one wipe, but if you could see the piles and piles of it our crew sees every day, then you would get it. Most wipes are not biodegradable and stick around on mother earth for a very long time, and find their way into our plants or sewer infrastructure,” stated Andy Clark, Superintendent of the Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant.

State Assembly Member Richard Bloom drafted this legislation to help combat the issue of “flushable wipes” not being, in fact, flushable. The legislation would require that certain pre-moistened nonwoven disposable wipes, manufactured on or after January 1st 2022, be clearly labeled with the phrase “Do Not Flush” and contain the appropriate symbol.

Next, the bill would also establish the California Consumer Education and Outreach Program, which would be tasked with public education and outreach. 

The photo below shows so-called “flushable wipes” that result in equipment failures and other adverse impacts experienced by the agency’s treatment plant operators on a regular basis. 

“It is so important that we support these initiatives to regulate what people are putting down the toilet,” exclaimed Autumn Cleave, Pollution Prevention Specialist. “At the very least, people should be aware of what really is flushable and what is not. If this legislation happens, a consumer will know from looking at the packaging whether it belongs in the trash. Well, nothing but pee, poop or toilet paper belongs in the toilet.”