Competition Bureau investigating ‘flushable’ wipes

OTTAWA – Canada’s Competition Bureau has started an inquiry on alleged false and misleading advertising on 23 so-called “flushable” wipes.

With regard to the Section 9 application filed with the Competition Bureau of Canada by six applicants supported by Friends of the Earth Canada and represented by Ecojustice,  “the Commissioner of Competition has commenced an inquiry pursuant to paragraph 10(1)(a) of the Competition Act with respect to alleged false or misleading marketing practices of certain manufacturers and distributors of single-use products”.

“The investigation will likely take months but we believe this inquiry is a significant step forward,” said Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada. “In the meantime, we will be assessing other single use products and their claims of flushability.”

The single-use wipes, which include baby wipes and personal wipes sold under the Cottonelle, Charmin and President’s Choice brands and others, are marketed as “flushable” and safe to be flushed down toilets.

But a recent study by Ryerson University’s Urban Water program demonstrated that all the products cited in the application failed to meet internationally recognized criteria for flushability. That means they failed to pass tests for drain line clearance and disintegration.

According to the report the inquiry was necessary because: “In addition to providing confusing labeling to consumers, such as ‘flushable’, ‘biodegradable’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘natural’, the composition of these products is quite diverse and not entirely disclosed to both consumers and the wastewater industry. Concurrently, sewer system operators are reporting a growing problem that involves consumer products, resulting in sewer and pump station blockages due to the lack of dispersion of these ‘flushable’ products under normal operating conditions. While the manufacturers’ associations have developed guidance for assessing both the flushability and labelling of their products (INDA and EDANA, 2018), it is not clear to what extent the manufacturers have adopted and are adhering to these recommendations.”