The flushable wet wipe industry is responsible for wrecking Australia’s sewerage system with an estimated 500 tonnes of wipes being fished out of pipes every year and costing millions of dollars a year in clean-up efforts. Pental, the company that manufactures White King wet wipes are contributing to this problem with their non-biodegradable wipes.

The Flushable White King Wipes: What Pental did wrong?

What did Pental claim about their White King wet wipes?

In December 2016, the ACCC instituted proceedings against Pental in the Federal Court alleging that they were engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct with the labelling of the White King flushable wipes. The company claims that consumers could flush their wipes down the toilet, just like toilet paper and they would break down or disintegrate over time.

But these claims turned out to be false and were causing significant blockages in both household and municipal sewerage systems. As a result, the Federal Court found Pental guilty of false and misleading representations and the company was fined $700,000.

What provisions have Pental breached?

ACCC’s alleges that Pental’s packaging and promotion of the flushable wipes are in direct contravention of s 18 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Under this provision, it is illegal for a corporation to make statements that create a false or incorrect impression about goods or services. The fact that Pental deliberately made misleading statements in their product promotions and product packaging, this suggests they are in breach of s 18 of the Act.

Think before you flush!

The flushable wipes are a growing hazard to the environment as 75% of sewerage block are caused by flushed wet wipes. Also, these wet wipes can harm marine life because they are packed full of fragrances, cleansing and disinfecting products which can have disastrous consequences on the environment.

Wet wipes are made from a textile-like paper called “air-laid paper” which is much stronger than the typical toilet paper. It does not easily disintegrate in water because it is very bulky and actually improves when wet.

Where to from here?

The fine imposed on Pental from this Federal Court judgment could have rippling effects on others in the flushable wet wipe industry. However, it is uncertain whether it will curb the manufacture of these wipes or will only stop businesses from labelling their wipes as “flushable” and “biodegradable”.

Updated flushability guidelines need to be presented to consumers so that they are made aware of the types of items that can be flushed down the toilet. Also, there needs to be greater consumer awareness about the effects of flushing non-biodegrable wipes, to prevent any further blockages in the Australian sewerage systems.

Conclusion

Overall, the flushable wet wipe industry needs to change in order to curb the clean-up efforts required every year. Hopefully, the implications of this decision will lead to significant changes in the industry so that consumers are not flushing them down the toilet and creating this costly inconvenience.

Are you aware of the flushable wipes effect on the Australian sewerage systems? Let us know your thoughts. Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about obtaining a fixed-fee quote from our network of 750+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

Michelle Ma

Michelle is a legal intern working in the content team at LawPath. With an interest in technology law and legal innovation, she is currently completing a Bachelor of Laws as well as a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).