Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on May 1, 2019 (updated: April 30, 2019)

Demand an inquiry into the labelling of “flushable” wipes

Bronwyn RoeLawyer
Flushable Wipes

Something from your home could be blocking sewage systems and waterways. Your seemingly benign bathroom products could be introducing non-degradable micro-plastics and microfibers into our rivers, lakes and oceans.

But it’s not your fault. Even though many of these products carry a “flushable” label, they aren’t. That’s right. Flushable wipes are not flushable.

That’s why Ecojustice and Friends of the Earth Canada are calling on the Commissioner of Competition to initiate an inquiry into misleading labels on flushable wipes. The Competition Act is clear: Businesses cannot market their products in a way that misleads the public. That means if a wipe is labelled “flushable,” then disposing of it down the toilet should not harm sewers or waterways.

Wipes, cloths, diaper liners and other products that are marketed this way can have an alarming impact on the environment. A recent study by Ryerson University, commissioned by the Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group and funded by Canadian Water and Wastewater Association members, clearly showed these products do not belong in our sewage system.

The Ryerson University study carried out testing on 101 Canadian products, 23 of which claim to be “flushable”. The study put these products through a series of tests to determine whether they were suitable to be flushed or not. Testing included drain line clearance, disintegration, fibre composition and package labelling.

The only products not to fail this test? Ordinary toilet paper.

The study provides strong evidence that “flushable” products actually harm our environment and sewage system. In fact, these wipes cause about $250 million in damage to sewer systems every year, putting pressure on pipes and the pockets of municipalities.

When they enter into the sewage system, these “flushable” wipes form the building blocks of fatbergs. These monstrosities are large masses of solid waste, consisting of congealed fat and personal care products that block pipes and cause flooding. They can also deposit microplastics and microfibers which persist in waterways.

Although Canadians are the ones flushing these wipes down their toilets, it’s the makers of these products who should bear the bulk of this blame because of their misleading labelling practices.

Will you tell the Commissioner of Competition to investigate misleading labelling and hold the makers of “flushable” wipes to account?


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