Industry News

DEFRA has launched a 6-week consultation to discuss the options for banning wet wipes which contain plastic across the UK

by | Oct 18, 2023

The purpose of this consultation is to discuss views around the idea of banning the sale of wet wipes which contain plastic. The discussions will take into consideration wet wipe manufacturers, vendors and consumers, especially disable people, and the discussion will focus on topics such as how each of these parties will be affected and what the options around banning wipes are.

When this consultation was first introduced, many people said it was long overdue and in 2021 a government survey revealed that 96% of people supported the ban. This is many people’s views because of the issue that wet wipes have presented within society. Whilst wipes contribute to microplastic pollution, Water UK reported that wet wipes are also responsible for 75% of drain blockages, after people flush them down the toilet. Furthermore, the Marine Conservation Society reported that 62% of UK beaches had wet wipes left on them, with more than 38,000 wet wipes being collected from UK beaches and 30,000 collected from beaches in Scotland in 2022.

This issue is what first brought the consultation to light back in 2018 with Theresea May’s government, which was when the call for evidence was sent out. Now the ban has come back to the government’s attention in their Plan for Water initiative. In order to push the ban forward, the consultation is looking into what makes up all kinds of wet wipes, including the ones which are marked as alternative and plastic-free. The aim with this is to find out if keeping ‘plastic-free’ wet wipes is a possibility and how easy it would be to successfully get retailers to switch to selling only ‘plastic-free’ wet wipes. The consultation will gather all the necessary information around wet wipes, decide if any types of wet wipes will be exempt from the ban, and then decide on the date which the ban will be placed.

Through their research around wet wipes, it has also been made clear that some retailers have already been made aware of the importance of this issue and have proactively made the switch to plastic-free wet wipes. This switch for any retailers involved occurred after MSC campaigns and has already made a significant impact.

The City to Sea policy manager, Steve Hynd, commented, “Although we welcome this ban, don’t believe the wipe. The ban could and should have been introduced years ago. When you combine this with the clear and compelling environmental harm these products do, I am not sure what else the government is waiting for.”

David Henderson, the Chief executive at Water UK, said, “We welcome the government’s plan to ban plastics from wet wipes. When flushed, these wipes cause fatbergs and other blockages that trigger overflow spills into rivers or flood homes and businesses. As our Bin the Wipe campaign makes clear, these products should never be flushed. We can all do our bit by putting wet wipes in the bin, rather than flushing them.”

This ban on wet wipes is another installment in a long line of initiatives created with the aim of reducing the amount of plastic waste in the UK. So far, the UK government has placed a 10p charge on plastic bags, which came into effect in 2021 and in 2018 microbeads in rinse-off personal care products were banned in the UK. The next steps for this aim of reducing plastic is to continue building on the reductions of plastic within the UK.

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