Washington Becomes First State with Wipes Labeling Law

(March 27, 2020) – Washington State became the first state with a wipes labeling law on March 25, when Gov. Jay Inslee signed Washington’s HB 2565

The law requires “Do Not Flush” logos on non-flushable wipes, with language to specify the size, placement and contrast of the logo. The bill does not set a standard for using the term “flushable” on packaging, however. The bill passed through the legislature with overwhelming support, with votes of 36-10 in the Senate and 93-4 in the House. 

Washington’s law uses the labeling Code of Practice (2nd Edition) published by the wipes industry associations as the basis for the labeling guidelines. NACWA worked with the wipes associations and other water sector groups on this Code of Practice to ensure that the “Do Not Flush” logo would be prominently displayed on wipes packages.

However, wipes manufacturers are currently not following the Code of Practice instructions for size, placement and color contrast of the “Do Not Flush” logo. The Washington law provides additional specifications to prevent wipes manufacturers from trying to camouflage the logo with other package artwork. 

The law comes at a time when utilities are becoming increasingly concerned about the flushing of wipes and other consumer products that do not break apart as quickly as toilet paper. As the spread of COVID-19 results in more disinfection of surfaces with wipes and substitution of toilet paper with other products due to toilet paper shortages, some utilities are seeing more clogs from wipes and other flushed products. Local media has covered the problem extensively in the last two weeks, and many utilities are renewing their efforts to get the “Toilets Are Not Trashcans” message to their communities. 

NACWA will continue to work with its members and state associations to advance state legislation to address the wipes issue, and to increase public awareness of the issue. NACWA members interested in this issue may contact Cynthia Finley, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.