You are now in the main content area

Product Dispersion in Sewers with Purpose-Built Sanitary Sewer

Don't flush disposable products! Researchers Barry Orr and Darko Joksimovic are continuing their research on disposable products by checking product dispersion in sewers with this purpose-built to-scale sanitary sewer in the Urban Water wet lab!

Barry and Darko are studying variable flow and shear stress conditions on the dispersibility of flushable consumer products and their potential to reduce sewer blockages over time. 

Initial findings show that plastic fibres and regenerated cellulose fibres are less dispersible than paper products. Keep reading to learn about their latest research!

For earlier research see here.

Just over 15 years ago, manufacturers of ‘disposable’ household wipes began to market their products as ‘flushable’ or ‘sewer and septic safe’. However, they made this determination unilaterally, without any consultation with the wastewater industry or the municipal owners/operators/maintainers of the municipal sewer systems. There were absolutely no standards or rules for what one could legally label as ‘flushable’. These efforts led to an incredible increase in sewer clogs and damage to screens and pumps costing utilities millions of dollars to clean lines, repair or replace equipment…plus millions more in property damages. The International Water Service Flushability Group (IWSFG) was formed and they developed and approved a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) to define what could be called ‘flushable’ and what tests would be used to make that determination. They also created a packaging logo that could be affixed to products that pass those tests. Efforts have begun to transition this PAS into federal legislation in Canada.

Our research at the Toronto Metropolitan University's Flushability lab on dispersion of flushed products has resulted in two flushable wipes manufacturers adding the IWSFG logo to their packaging. Plus we have now completed two public service announcement videos that show how new technology of flushable wipes are falling into small pieces within a short amount of sewer retention time.

The data we have gathered over the past two years around dispersion of flushed products is almost ready to be released and you will be surprised at the results. Tip: if you fold your toilet paper the dispersibility properties are less than if you scrunch by as much as 30%, plus some new technology wipes have a dispersibility of 100%. In comparison to a flushable diaper liner and ostomy pouch that has zero dispersibility in our testing.