Baby Wipes Don’t Belong to Toilet

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Our Thursday green news brings you the latest on green architecture, climate change, energy and communities:

baby wipes

Photo courtesy of Smokey Combs via Flickr

  • Baby wipes don’t belong to toilet: Sanitary wipes are causing a crisis in sewer processing plants in New York City and other urban areas across the country. Their use has recently significantly increased and many consumers flush them down their toilets instead of disposing them in municipal waste. This causes clogging of the sewer system and subsequently costs millions of dollars in equipment damage. Such damages have been reported from cities such as  New York City, Washington DC, Orange County, California and the San Francisco Bay Area. City officials are now forced to use additional grinding machinery to dispose of such waste; therefore immediate education of its residents is more than necessary. For example, in New York City, a new bill has been introduced in February to stop companies producing sanitary wipes from advertising their products as “flushable”. The city’s environmental staff has also started a public awareness campaign informing city residents how to properly dispose of sanitary wipes in the trash, instead of a toilet. As Vincent Sapienza, deputy commissioner of the city Department of Environmental Protection, explained: “A growing number of adults think that if it’s good for baby, it’s good for them. Many brands may say they’re flushable, but they wind up in our sewer plants fully intact.” Jamie Rosenberg, a Chicago-based household and personal-care analyst for Mintel, added: “The average consumer believes if a product clears their toilet bowl, it’s flushable. People in their homes have no idea what’s going on downstream.”
  • San Francisco is the first city to ban sale of plastic bottles: San Francisco has recently become the first American city banning the sale of plastic water bottles. This ban is part of their efforts to reduce the huge amount of waste from the billion-dollar plastic bottle industry. Over the span of next four years, the sales of plastic water bottles smaller than 21 ounces will be banned from sales in public places. Certain waivers are available in places without an adequate alternative water sources. San Francisco’s ban is less strict than the full prohibitions passed in 14 national parks, a number of universities and Concord, Mass. Violators of the ban would face fines of up to $1,000. As Joshua Arce, chairman of the Commission on the Environment, explained: “The ban is another step forward on our zero-waste goal. The City wants to have no waste going to its landfill by 2020. Its diversion rate now stands at 80 percent. We had big public events for decades without plastic bottles and we’ll do fine without them again.”  The American Beverage Association (including companies such as Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo) reacted in a statement: “The ban is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem. This is a misguided attempt by city supervisors to decrease waste in a city of avid recyclers.”
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