Misleading green claim on baby wipes leads to recall

"100% biodegradable" wipes were 17% polyester.

Wiping hands with baby wipe.

A major brand of baby wipes that claimed to be “100% biodegradable” is being recalled after a Consumer NZ test found the claim was misleading.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said Silk Ultimate Pure & Natural Baby Wipes claimed to be made from “100% vegetable fibre” and “100% biodegradable” but its testing found this wasn’t the case.

Silk Ultimate Pure & Natural Baby Wipes.
Silk Ultimate Pure & Natural Baby Wipes.

“We tested the baby wipes and discovered they were 83 percent rayon and 17 percent polyester. Polyester is made from plastic and isn’t going to biodegrade any time soon,” Ms Chetwin said.

Global Products, which imports the wipes, has agreed to withdraw the product as a result of Consumer NZ’s testing.

Ms Chetwin said consumers paid a premium for the wipes. A pack of 72 wipes cost $5, about $2 to $3 more than a pack of standard baby wipes.

“Companies are increasingly trying to cash in on consumer concern for the environment by dressing up their products as ‘greener’ choices. However, unless traders can substantiate their green claims, they risk breaching the Fair Trading Act,” she said.

Ms Chetwin said when her organisation began investigating the wipes, it asked Global Products for evidence backing up its biodegradability claim. The company refused to provide information on what the wipes were made from, stating it was confidential.

“It was only after we tested the product and provided the results to Global Products that it took action and withdrew the wipes.”

Ms Chetwin advised shoppers to be wary of green claims that aren’t backed by sound evidence.

“By themselves, biodegradability claims are meaningless. Unless the company can tell you what’s in the product and whether it’s been tested against a reputable standard, a biodegradability claim isn’t helpful.”

Consumers who purchased Silk Ultimate Pure & Natural Baby Wipes in the expectation they were getting a product that was “100% biodegradable” were entitled to a refund, Ms Chetwin said.

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Francoise L.
18 Jan 2020
'Green' nappies

I noticed Treasures and another nappy sold by Health 2000 were both claiming to be 'green' I read the packet and it looked like only the packet the nappies were packaged in was biodegradable. Seemed pretty misleading to me!

Timothy M.
11 Jan 2020
Company should be fined

Was the company fined for this? Ive purchased these hoping to be a little greener for the environment. I'm going to email food stuffs and ask paknsave to no longer sell this brand.

This kind of behaviour puts consumers off for believing the marketing claims of companies really trying to make a difference.

Consumer staff
13 Jan 2020
Re: Company should be fined

Hi Timothy.

We’ve made a complaint to the Commerce Commission, asking it to take action against the company under the Fair Trading Act. Traders found in breach of the act can be fined up to $600,000.

Kind regards,

Jess - Consumer NZ Head of Research