Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on August 28, 2019 (updated: September 30, 2019)

Good news! We’re closer to stopping the scourge of ‘flushable’ wipes

Devon PageLawyer
Photo by Barry Orr

Earlier this year, Ecojustice, on behalf of six individuals coordinated by Friends of the Earth, demanded an inquiry into so-called “flushable” wipes — products that, despite their labelling, don’t break down in our sewer systems and treatment facilities.

Last week, we found out the Commissioner of Competition has commenced an inquiry into misleading labels on these products. This is a big step forward!

Thousands of Ecojustice supporters signed a petition calling on the Competition Bureau to begin this inquiry into the misleading labelling practices of single-use wipes. We’re so pleased that our supporters’ voices were heard and that the door is now open for a thorough investigation into manufacturers’ labelling practices.

Single-use wet wipes may seem innocuous, but when they’re flushed down the toilet, they don’t disintegrate like toilet paper does. This means they can become the building blocks of fatbergs: monstrosities of congealed fat and personal care products that block pipes and cause flooding. They can also introduce harmful microfibers and microplastics into our waterways, as well as leave an unsightly mess on the banks of rivers and streams.

But it’s not the consumer’s fault that they dispose of wet wipes down the toilet — these wipes claim to be safe to flush. That’s what we’re trying to fix.

Every year, about $250 million in Canadian taxpayer dollars are used to clean up the damage caused by wipes and other non-flushable products.

When Ecojustice and Friends of the Earth Canada launched our #TheseWipesAreNotFlushable campaign in May, we received support from across Canada. The City of Lethbridge has supported the campaign, a councillor has called on York Region to ban the sale of baby and hand wipes, while the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association supported our application to the Competition Bureau.

The Competition Bureau is the public watchdog charged with investigating false or misleading marketing practices by private business. It compels action: recently, it fined Ticketmaster $4 million for failing to disclose hidden fees in tickets sold on the retailer’s platform.

Depending on what the Competition Bureau finds in this inquiry, flushable wipe manufacturers and distributors could also face millions of dollars in fines for false or misleading advertising.

We will keep you informed on the results of this investigation. In the meantime – please spread the word that “flushable” wipes aren’t flushable. And if you must buy these single-use products, dispose of them responsibly in the trash.

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