Majority of Canadians do not trust Flushable Wipes manufacturers’ claims

As leaders from the Canadian wastewater management sector gather in Ottawa to discuss issues like plastics in water and the impacts and costs associated with “flushable” wipes on municipal sewer systems operations and reliability, Friends of the Earth is releasing its new poll on flushable wipes. With municipal expenditures to clean up wipes estimated in the past at $230 million rising now to $1billion, the topic is clearly important to Canadians. Oracle Poll Research conducted the 2,000 person national poll on behalf of Friends of the Earth Canada in May (margin of error for total N=2000 sample is ± 2.2%, 19 times out of 20).

The poll findings are good news for wastewater professionals with more than 9 out of 10 Canadians (91%) indicating they trust scientists or wastewater engineers to provide them with credible information about whether it is safe or not to flush products labelled as “flushable” down their toilet. On the flip side – Canadians clearly do not believe the manufacturers. Over 8 in ten Canadians (85%) said manufacturers of flushable products are the least credible when it comes to trusting the source of information on “flushability” of disposable wipes.

“These findings are a vote of confidence by Canadians for the professionals who do the hard and dirty work of keeping our toilets flushing and water pumping and against the so-called “flushable” wipes” manufacturers and their ad agencies” observed Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth.

These findings underscore the importance of the recent Ryerson study on flushable wipes. This study used a new standard set by wastewater industry professionals to determine what can be considered “flushable”. The study tested 101 products and found only toilet paper met the wastewater industry standard for “flushability”.

Advertising and “flushability” claims on packaging for twenty-three of the studied wipes are misleading and fraudulent according to Olivastri. “Canadians should not be bamboozled into thinking these products are safe to flush into septic systems or municipal sewers.”

Canadians, when asked whether they think disposable wipes are safe to flush down toilets, are polarized in their assessment with slightly more than half saying no (53%) while the rest of respondents say yes (28%) or unsure (18%). Confusion or lack of awareness is elevated in Ontario (23%), Alberta (21%), Manitoba and Saskatchewan (20%) British Columbians were mostly like to say no (68%) or unsafe to flush, followed by almost 6 out of 10 Quebecers (59%) while almost half of respondents of the Maritimes considered the disposable wipes safe to flush (49%).

The youngest respondents 18-34 were most likely to feel that disposable wipes are unsafe to flush down toilets (71%) while among respondents 55+, only 30% see the disposable wipes as unsafe.

Friends of the Earth supporters, represented by Ecojustice, earlier this month asked Canada’s Competition Bureau to investigate fraudulent and misleading advertising appearing on 23 products that did not pass the Ryerson study’s testing but carry clear statements leading consumers to expect them to be flushable.

The full poll report can be read at https://foecanada.org/en/files/2019/06/FOE_National-Omnibus-Survey-Report_Ver_May10-1-min.pdf).

Additional detail can be found at https://foecanada.org/en/2019/05/ecojustice-and-friends-of-the-earth-ask-competition-bureau-canada-to-investigate-and-levy-230-million-in-fines-against-wipes-manufacturers).

This Media Release

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