A Labour MP is calling for a new law to ban the manufacture and sale of all wet wipes that contain plastic.
Putney MP Fleur Anderson said that 90% of the 11 billion wet wipes used in the UK every year contain some form of plastic which turns into microplastics when broken down.
These can then be ingested by wildlife and enter the food chain and water supply.
Ms Anderson also said that wet wipes are the cause of 93% of blockages in UK Sewers, adding that just one sewage station in East London removes a whopping 30 tonnes of the wipes each day.
She said: “Everyone should bin and not flush wet wipes, but either way they contain plastic which gets in the environment and kills wildlife.
“In 2019, 23,000 wet wipes were counted and removed from a single stretch of the Thames foreshore in just two hours. That is even more terrifying when you consider that our reliance on wet wipes is growing day by day.
“It isn’t just causing environmental damage and polluting our marine environments, it is also costing water companies around £100 million per year to clear 300,000 blockages. That is money that then ends up on our water bills each month.”
The MP is now calling on manufacturers to make a switch to non-plastic alternatives and asking UK retailers to be held to account for incorrectly labelling their products as ‘Fine to Flush’.
She added: “It really isn’t easy to determine which wet wipes contain plastic and which are ‘fine to flush’.
“There will be thousands of people out there right now using wet wipes every day with no idea that they are using a single-use plastic and with no idea of the harm that it is doing to our water systems and our marine environments.
“It has been years since Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced it would target plastic-containing wet wipes in its bid to eliminate all avoidable single use plastic within 25 years.
“Well, it’s Cop26 this week and the Environment Bill is going through Parliament. This is the perfect opportunity to make good on that promise. Let’s ban plastic in wet wipes once and for all.”
Ms Anderson’s proposed Bill will have its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday (2 November).
Which brands are plastic free?
Wet wipes are tested against the conditions of the UK’s sewer system to ensure that they break down and don’t cause sewer blockages, fatbergs or wind up littered across beaches.
Those that can be flushed down toilets safely meet the ‘Fine to Flush’ criteria, an official standard introduced by Water UK.
However, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and water companies recommend that wipes that fail to meet this criteria must be clearly labelled as ‘do not flush’.
Andrex moist toilet tissues and certain own-brand wipes from Aldi both have Fine to Flush status, meaning they do not contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system.
Boots, Morrison’s, Tesco and Waitrose all committed to attaining Fine to Flush status by June this year, according to the MSC.
Other plastic-free wet wipe brands include:
Boots Baby Fragrance Free Biodegradable soft baby wipes
Wilko Skin Therapy Plastic Free
Aldi Mamia Biodegradable Baby Wipes
CannyMum Bamboo Dry Wipes
Jackson Reece Kinder by Nature Wipes
Cheeky Panda Bamboo Baby Wipes
Lupilu Biodegradable Pure Water Wipes
My Happy Planet 100% Biodegradable Plastic-free Eco Wipes
In a statement to the BBC, a Defra spokesperson said: “Through our 25 year environment plan, we have a clear commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste.
“We are working with manufacturers and water companies to ensure labelling is clear on wet wipes and also raising awareness about how to dispose of them properly.”
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