By Todd Latham

The COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax, the U.S. election was stolen, all wipes are flushable, and the earth is flat. Just saying something untrue, even repeatedly, does not make it fact. Unfortunately, there are many who say ‘if I saw it on the internet or on a package, it must be true’ and they find comfort in knowing other people think it is not un-false. These lies somehow land on receptive ears and are assumed correct. Polarizing echo chambers reverberate fake news and myths. We have all seen it play out on social and, unfortunately, mainstream media.

In this context I recently saw a Tweet from CTV News in my feed: “Personal care manufacturer Kimberly-Clark has recalled some of its Cottonelle Flushable Wipes, sold in the U.S. and Canada […]”. The use of the word “flushable” irked me as I know they are not. I responded: “Hey @cottonelle – 
your wipes are NOT “flushable”! And 
@CTVNews – stop perpetuating that myth!”

A bit of background. Since disposable wipes came on the market, they started turning up in sewers and have caused well-documented infrastructure problems that include clogged pumps, blocked screens, buildups in wastewater treatment plants, and sewer blockages and overflows that can impact public health and the environment.

After my Tweet, I received a quick reply from Cottonelle: “Please, know that flushable wipes have been extensively tested to break down immediately after flushing. We’ve tested with plumbers & are the only flushable wipe approved by a wastewater utility as safe to flush. Visit http://spr.ly/6014G2loy for more information. Thanks again!” The wastewater utility they identified is the Jacksonville Electric Authority.

Was the water industry wrong about wipes in our wastewater infrastructure? What are the facts? I asked a few experts and this is what one of them said: “Today they do have a better product but it still does not pass the IWSFG specification.” The International Water Services Flushability Group (IWSFG) is a group of water professionals seeking to provide clear guidance on what should and shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet. But on the flip side, a court case from Australia declared that Cottonelle’s ‘flushable wipes’ meet or exceed the requirements set out in the INDA/EDANA flushability guidelines—but on closer inspection, these guidelines are set by the “Responsible Flushing Alliance”—a group of wipes manufacturers.

It looks like there are conflicting ‘facts’ from two different authorities. I guess the earth is flat in some parts of Saskatchewan.

Todd Latham is the founder of ReNew Canada and, regardless of ‘flushability,’ does not use toilets as garbage cans.

This article was originally featured in the January/February 2021 edition of ReNew Canada magazine in the “Closing Shot” column.

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