Wet wipes are a daily essential for most parents – but they could be banned in the UK as part of a new Government crack-down on single-use plastics.
Following the 5p charge for carrier bags, and the plans to phase out of plastic straws and bottles from next year, the Government has announced the potential ban on wet wipes as part of its drive to stop plastic being thrown away and damaging ecosystems.
A spokesman for The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “As part of our 25-year environment plan we have pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, and that includes single-use products that include plastic such as wet wipes.
“Our focus for wet wipes is to work with manufacturers and water companies to develop a product that does not contain plastic and can be safely flushed.
“We are also continuing to work with industry to make sure labelling on the packaging of these products is clear and people know how to dispose of them properly.”
What are wet wipes made of?
Some wet wipes are made with a form of plastic called polypropylene, which is woven together with cotton – meaning they won’t break down or deteriorate (like a tissue might do) – but instead either clog our drains and sewage systems or wash up on our beaches.
In fact, even wet wipes that are labelled ‘flushable’ often contain plastic, which means they are non-biodegradable, and if disposed of down the toilet, will remain in waterways for decades.
In a statement, head of science at Friends of the Earth, Mike Childs said: “Phasing out wet wipes may well make many parents shudder at the thought of cleaning up their kids without these handy go-to items.
“But if we can develop the technology for driverless cars, surely we can design a way of keeping our kids clean without plastic.”
Why are wet wipes being banned?
According to a 2017 study Water UK, wet wipes make up 93 per cent of the material causing sewer blockages.
Water UK’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Rae Stewart commented: “Water companies spend billions of pounds every year improving water and sewerage services in this country,
“But our sewers are just not designed to handle these new wipes which clog up the system.
“It’s clear that something needs to change.”
But some parents aren’t happy with the proposed plans to “eliminate” wet wipes completely.
Taking to Twitter, one mum wrote: “I just can’t imagine a world without wet wipes”.
While mum-of-one, Jessica Garratt told Baby London: “I wouldn’t know what to do if wet wipes were banned – I literally use them for everything since becoming a mum!”
Another joked: “Mate, have you tried wiping a baby’s bum with a tissue?”
Other parents asked for alternatives and even suggested fining “the fools that flush them” rather than getting rid of wet wipes completely.
Could you cope without wet wipes?