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press release

Environmental groups welcome inquiry into labelling of “flushable” wipes

August 28, 2019

Competition Bureau will get to the bottom of whether flushability claims are misleading

Toronto, August 28, 2019 – Responding to a campaign by Ecojustice, representing six individuals supported by Friends of the Earth Canada, the Competition Bureau has confirmed that it has launched an inquiry into false and misleading claims made by the manufacturers of “flushable” wipes. In May, Ecojustice filed an application with the Bureau requesting that it open an inquiry into representations made by the manufacturers of 23 so-called flushable wipes and other single-use products.

A recent study by Ryerson University’s Urban Water program on behalf of the Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group demonstrated that all the products cited in Ecojustice’s application failed to meet internationally recognized criteria for flushability. The Ryerson study examined more than 101 products, and all items except toilet paper failed to pass tests for drain line clearance and disintegration. Many of the products are also composed of plastic or regenerated cellulose, which does not degrade sufficiently in the natural environment.

Over 3,000 people signed petitions in support of the application, concerned by the impact that these products have on the environment.

Key facts

  • Unlike toilet paper, flushable wipes don’t break down in sewers and waterways.
  • These single-use products lead to putrid sewage clogs and can form the core of fatbergs, large masses of solid waste consisting of congealed fat and personal care products that block pipes and cause flooding
  • “Flushable” wipes cause an estimated $250 million in damage each year to municipal sewer systems in 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, and the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association supported our application to the Competition Bureau.


Rob Wright, lawyer for Ecojustice said:

“This inquiry is an important step to hold manufacturers of single-use wipes to account for the damage that these products can do, so we’re really pleased that the Commissioner of Competition has launched this inquiry. The Ryerson study shows that ‘flushable’ wipes cause millions of dollars of damage to sewers when they’re flushed down the toilet – as well as causing unsightly messes on the banks of rivers when they don’t break down. Most consumers don’t want to harm the environment or cause costly sewer damage; our clients want labels on wipes to accurately instruct consumers on how to dispose of these products safely.”



Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.