In Depth

Wet wipes face ban in plastics crackdown

Government acts amid reports of sewer blockages and clogged riverbeds

Wet wipes containing non-biodegradable plastic are to be phased out of the UK market, the Government has said.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that the Government will work with manufacturers to ensure that the current non-biodegradable wipes are phased out.

“As part of our 25-year environment plan, we have pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, and that includes single-use products like wet wipes,” a Defra spokesperson said.

By the end of that timeframe, “manufacturers will either have to develop plastic-free wipes or consumers will have to go without”, says the BBC.

Wet wipes may be an innocuous part of life for millions of Britons, used for everyday tasks like removing make-up, cleaning hands and changing nappies, but environmentalists say their impact on the UK’s ecosystems is catastrophic.

The wipes are meant to be disposed of in rubbish bins, but “despite public awareness campaigns, many are still flushed into lavatories”, says The Independent, clogging the nation’s sewers.

Water UK told the BBC that wet wipes “are behind 93% of blockages in UK sewers, a key element of the infamous giant obstacles known as fatbergs”, costing ratepayers in the region of £100m per year. 

The wipes which make it through the sewage system are ending up in the UK’s rivers in such numbers that activists claim the deposits are changing the shape of riverbeds.

On a single day last month, volunteer river cleanup group Thames 21 gathered 5,453 wet wipes from a section of the Thames “the size of half a tennis court”, The Guardian reports - “an increase of nearly a thousand over last year’s total”.

The buildup also has deadly consequences for riverlife, as the microfibres inside the tissues can be fatal when ingested by fish.

Recommended

‘Johnson on the brink’
Today’s newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Johnson on the brink’

The favourites to replace Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid
In Depth

The favourites to replace Boris Johnson

Johnson’s premiership ‘on the brink’ as Sunak and Javid resign
​Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak have quit Boris Johnson’s government
In Depth

Johnson’s premiership ‘on the brink’ as Sunak and Javid resign

Boris Johnson and his trouble with the truth
Boris Johnson at the weekly cabinet meeting today
Why we’re talking about . . .

Boris Johnson and his trouble with the truth

Popular articles

Are we heading for World War Three?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Are we heading for World War Three?

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 6 July 2022
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 6 July 2022

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?
Nato troops
Today’s big question

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?

The Week Footer Banner