Will this be the end of wet wipes?

Jack O'Donovan By: Jack O'Donovan
Date posted: 8 May 2018

Michael Gove’s crack down on plastic continues as wet wipes enter the focus of the Environment Secretary. News sources today have reported on the Secretary’s latest attack on plastic and highlighted the true trouble with wet wipes. Data from the Marine Conservation society (MCS) has revealed a 94% increase in wet wipes on UK beaches. They are top of the league in personal hygiene products, but what do you do once you’ve finished with them?

wet wipes

This source of plastic pollution is easy to prevent and we want any product which is being designed to be washed or flushed down the drain to be free from plastics

Dr Laura Foster,
Head of Pollution
Marine Conservation Society

Wet wipes, to the surprise of many, are not flushable, even when the packet says so. They are made of polyester, the same stuff as a football jersey or a fleece. Now you wouldn’t flush your football jersey would you? They pose severe threat to wildlife who go on to eat them and toxic chemicals and bacteria can attach to them on their journey down the drain. Health risks for beachgoers is also of concern as MCS Beachwatch surveys found on average 30 wet wipes per 100m of beach.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Pollution at MCS, said “This source of microplastic is easy to prevent and we want any product which is being designed to be washed or flushed down the drain to be free from plastics.”

Data from the 2017 Great British Beach Clean revealed a startling 94% rise in the number of wet wipes found on UK beaches. MCS collected over 10,000 signatures a petition to the wet wipe industry body EDANA asking them to ensure members removed plastic from their flushable products and that flushable wipes complied with UK Water Industry standards.

When you flush them, wet wipes turn nasty. Surprisingly the so called “fat bergs” that become lodged in UK sewers are only made up of 0.5% fats, but an astonishing 93% wet wipes. £90 million is spent by the water industry each year on clearing blocked drains alone, ultimately adding costs to customers water bills, according to UK water.

“We have committed to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste, and that includes wet wipes” says the Department for Food Environment and Rural Affairs, as part of their 25 year plan.

Along with Michael Gove’s announcement to consider a ban on plastic cotton bud sticks, stirrers and straws across the UK, now more than ever we need to keep the pressure on, to ensure that action follows all this talk.

The UK government are currently asking the public their opinion on a throwaway plastic tax. Let the government know that you have had enough of single-use plastic before 18th May.

Actions you can take

  1. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  2. Join the fight against the 'unflushables'
  3. Help stop the plastic tide

Did you know?…

Plastic has been found in the stomachs of almost all marine species including fish, birds, whales, dolphins, seals and turtles

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded almost 50% fewer bags on beaches

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces