Ministers urged to get on with introducing ban on wet wipes containing plastic

A ban on wet wipes containing plastic is a “very achievable action” which would reduce environmental damage, ministers have been told after proposed legislation was tabled.

By Elizabeth Arnold
Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 12:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 12:25 pm

Labour MP Fleur Anderson urged the Government to “come clean” following the end of its consultation on February 12 and “move ahead” with the ban.

Such a move she said could lessen the “use of wet wipes altogether” and “dramatically reduce plastic in our environment”.

The MP for Putney, who has presented the Plastics (Wet Wipes) Bill before the Commons, told the PA news agency: “It’s still the case that we use at least 11 billion wet wipes a year. That it is in 90% of material that blocks loos and it costs £100 million to water companies to clear those blockages.”

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Boots and Tesco she said had banned plastic in all the wet wipes that they sell, adding for Tesco that amounted to 4.8 billion wet wipes a year.

“If Boots and Tesco can do it, all the manufacturers can do it,” she added.

On the impact to the sewer systems, she said: “There’s a lack of awareness that flushing them down, they don’t disintegrate, they do stay in the system for a long time. They do go out to the sea, they go on the banks of the Thames.

“There are 30,000 blockages a year because of wet wipes, 90% of those sewage material according to the water companies is wet wipes… that costs us money in our water bills.”

Wet wipes she added also caused marine damage, killing fish through the ingestion of plastic and pollution to rivers through storm overflows.

She added: “There’s an island the size of two tennis courts and I’ve been and stood on it, it’s near Hammersmith Bridge in the Thames and it’s a metre deep or more in places of just wet wipes… it’s actually changed the course of the River Thames.”

Wet wipe companies she said were able to substitute plastic with other materials, adding “it’s perfectly possible… there are biodegradable alternatives such as bamboo”.

Ms Anderson pointed to the current “confusing packaging”, adding: “That’s why banning any plastic in the manufacture of wet wipes is really important… It’s very confusing for the public, they want to do the right thing.”

Such a law change, she said offered the Government the chance to be “world leading”, adding: “It matches up to their words, they’ve got to have the actions to back that up and this is a very achievable action that they can take.”

Ms Anderson is seeking further consideration of her Bill at second reading on September 16.

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10:1523 Jun 2022

Labour MP Andrew Gwynne said the effect of wet wipe pollution on rivers is making them look like a scene from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

10:0523 Jun 2022

Do not use wet wipes unless you need to, environment minister