14th May 2018

Wet wipe ban to clean up the environment

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The government has announced plans to implement a wet wipe ban, which are one of the key components of ‘fatbergs’, which are polluting the environment.

Wet wipes, which contain non-biodegradable plastic, are single-use and could face a ban over the next two decades, unless manufacturers can develop plastic-free versions.

Wet wipes, used for a multitude of household tasks as well as cleaning babies, are responsible for 93 per cent of blockages in UK sewers despite the fact many are labelled as ‘flushable’. Water UK, the trade body representing all of the main water and sewerage companies in the country, claims they are a major cause of the giant obstacles, known as fatbergs and as a result they must not be flushed into the waste water system.

A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment (Defra), said: “We are continuing to work with manufacturers and retailers of wet wipes to make sure labelling on packaging is clear and people know how to dispose of them properly.”

Defra is also “encouraging innovation so that more and more of these products can be recycled and are working with industry to support the development of alternatives, such as a wet wipe product that does not contain plastic and can therefore be flushed”.

Samples collected from blockages in sewers, pumps and wastewater treatment works were analysed and were made up mostly of wet wipes (mostly baby wipes), but also those used to remove make up and clean surfaces – made up the vast majority of the material. Fat, oil and grease accounted for just 0.5 per cent.

The other 7 per cent came from a range of other materials including feminine hygiene products, cotton pads and plastic wrappers.

Toilet paper is responsible for just 0.01 per cent of the material blocking our pipes and sewers.

Defra is in the process of exploring how various changes could be made to reduce the amount of single-use plastics wasted.

Prime Minister Theresa May pledged in January to eradicate all “avoidable plastic waste” by 2042 and the government has also said it will consult over whether or not to ban plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers.