Last month I had the pleasure of speaking at the World of WipesÒ International Conference in Chicago. The panel I participated in was called “Nonwoven Substrates for More Sustainable Wipes.” 

 My presentation focused on RFA’s #FlushSmart campaign and the other three panelists provided deep insights into the positive steps being taken by the nonwovens industry related to sustainability, the environment, and new material technology for the circular economy. 

 I presented the importance of proper labeling on wipes packaging so that consumers know how to properly dispose of wipes and keep plastics out of our waterways. For a look at my full presentation, click HERE. 

 It was really exciting to see how RFA’s consumer education campaign is supporting overall industry sustainability efforts. Based on the great questions coming from the audience, I know folks are eager to learn more about how innovations in the industry are focusing on sustainability and working to reduce synthetic plastic materials.  

 For more details on what the other three presenters discussed, here is a brief overview: 

 The first presentation, from Aquapak Polymers Ltd.’s Jack Eaton, focused on innovations happening with polyvinyl alcohol. These changes allow for high functionality for disposable wipes and versatile end of life options — including being biodegradable and options for recycling and reusing the materials. Having options that are better for the environment and provide functional product integrity is important for providing realistic solutions. 

 Next was Richard Knowlson from RPK Consulting. His presentation, “How sustainable are you willing to be? New technology to support the use of alternate fiber sources,” looked at options for making wet wipes without plastics. This included looking at cotton, wood pulp, viscose/lyocell, flax and hemp, as well as natural liquid binders. The presentation also focused on how the rising costs of traditional raw materials can’t keep up with demand for non-plastic options. The reality is that many natural pulp products are more cost effective. 

 BAST Fibre Technologies, Inc.’s Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Jasson Finnis updated the 800 person audience on the latest improvements in “Sustainable Innovation: Bast Fibre Use in Nonwoven Substrate.” Bast fibre is plant fibre collected from the phloem (or vascular tissue) of a plant, including hemp and flax.  

 This conference — and the countless conversations I’ve had with manufacturers and wastewater leaders from around the country — have reinforced that we are at an inflection point. As research and development continue to evolve, our consumer education must as well. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that is seeking to improve environmental health and community infrastructure safety by putting sustainability, relationship building, and education at the heart of our efforts. That is what it means to be #FlushSmart!