I finally learned what happened to the letter I sent to Galen Weston six months ago. He’s the new head of Shoppers Drug Mart. I was questioning the sale of the company's generic Life Brand product called Flushable Wipes.
Wet wipes are never flushable and should not be advertised as such, I argued in a letter mailed to corporate HQ on April 27. As the months tore by, I came to believe that my letter had been ignored.
Lo and behold, a response from Shoppers Drug Mart arrived in my mailbox this very day. It was from “Suzanne” of Shoppers Drug Mart Customer Service. It was hand-signed. That’s always impressive. The company cared enough not to hit me with a laser signature.
After wading through a few paragraphs of preamble, I turned my attention to Page 2. I find corporate letters often put the most salient bits near the end. And such was the case with Suzanne’s letter, dated November 20. First she wanted me to know about Shoppers’ initiatives on waste reduction and diversion. Safe disposal of medications and sharps, the plastic bag fee donated to good causes, energy efficiency measures.
Getting to the core of my concern without expressly stating it, Suzanne’s second last sentence contained big news. Significant at least to the sewer and waste enforcement people who organized Canada’s first ever Flushables Conference, held in Kitchener-Waterloo in May 2015. Slogan: "A toilet is not a garbage can.”
You see, toilets should only receive a 3P deposit – pee, pooh or paper tissue. Many of us may be unaware of the folly of flushing wipes and other non-3Ps. But sewer and water experts know that wipes are non-organic compounds that don’t break down easily. They clog the arteries of sewer systems, causing breakdowns, spillage and pollution. They washed up onto UK beaches in staggering numbers earlier this year. (See this backgrounder.)
“We appreciate your passion and concern for the environment and recycling terminology and it’s (sic) usage in society, and appreciate you taking the time to pass on your concerns and your provided documentation. We have since forwarded your concerns onto the appropriate division for further review concerning our products,” says the letter signed with a typewritten Suzanne, an illegible signature above it.
I’m thinking to myself, ‘I know there’s a point in here somewhere ...’
“We can confirm since the draft of your letter the Life Brand Flushable wipes have since been a product we have been active in discontinuing.”
It doesn’t mean this major drug chain is stopping the sale of wet wipes altogether. Still, disassociating its brand name from this environmentally problematic product is a smart move that hints of sustainability savvy.
The letter from Shoppers gives me occasion to remind people to handle wipes with care by placing them in a bin or bag and never flushing them down the toilet or dropping them on the ground.