The UK Government sets to eliminate wet wipes across the country in their latest proposal to tackle plastic pollution. It plans to eradicate plastic waste which includes single-use products within the 25 years.
The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has classified the product as a severe environmental hazard. Wet wipes have been the reason for river blockage and feeding the growth of “fatbergs” in sewers.
On the other hand, manufacturers contend that wet wipes are flushable. However, because they do not dissolve sufficiently in the sewers, they cause blockages in commercial pipes.
Because the situation continues to aggravate, the government and the manufacturing industry were prompted to persuade consumers not to flush wet wipes into the water systems. A spokesperson for the Department of Environment (Defra) said that they are continuing to work with manufacturers and retailers to make sure that the labeling on the packaging is understandable and people know how to dispose of them properly. The Defra also said it also encourages innovation so that more products could be recycled and is also working with industries to think of alternatives such as plastic-free wet wipes.
Tens of thousands of wet wipes are sold in Britain annually. If ever they are outlawed, consumers would no longer be able to buy them, which comprise materials like polyester and millions of microfibers impregnated with chemicals.
Defra did not specify whether it would be deemed illegal to buy or sell wet wipes or when the action would begin. It is still considering new taxes to reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste.
Environment secretary Michael Gove decided to spearhead the campaign after a group which cleans the rivers in the UK said that wet wipes change the shape of river beds. The team found more than 5,000 wet wipes along the Thames in an area half the size of a tennis court. Last month, they were able to gather 5,453 wet wipes in West London.
The initiation of the campaign also started when water and sewage companies and the Environment Agency raised concerns regarding the product. In December, Water UK which represents these companies announced that wet wipes flushed down the toilets were the most significant contributor to blockages. Sewer blockages added £100M to water bills each year.
The move is only one of the attempts that the UK has undertaken to lessen the problem of plastic pollution in the country. The country has already banned microbeads, introduced an increased plastic bag charge, signaled a ban on the sale of synthetic straws, stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds, and initiated a new deposit-return system for plastic bottles.