A Labour MP is proposing a new law to ban all wet wipes that contain plastic.
Putney MP Fleur Anderson’s Bill to prohibit the manufacture and sale of wet wipes containing plastic will have its first reading on Tuesday.
“As a mother of four children, I completely understand the pressures that parents are under and the difficulties that can bring when trying to cut down on plastic and make the right choices for the environment,” Ms Anderson said.
“I know that parents want to do the right things and all I am saying is that we can make it easier on them and on everyone who relies on the use of wet wipes every day.
“Everyone should bin and not flush wet wipes, but, either way, they contain plastic which gets in the environment and kills wildlife. My Bill comes in the same week as world leaders are meeting for Cop26 and will show that the UK can take serious action and ban plastic from wet wipes made and sold in the UK.”
According to Ms Anderson, 90% of the 11 billion wet wipes that are used in the UK every year contain some form of plastic which, when broken down, turn into microplastics which can be ingested by wildlife and enter the food chain and water supply.
The MP added that wet wipes are the cause of 93% of blockages in UK sewers.
Ms Anderson said: “Just one sewage station in east London removes 30 tonnes of wet wipes every day.
“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.”
Ms Anderson is calling on manufacturers to switch to non-plastic alternatives and for UK retailers to be held to account for incorrectly labelling their products as “Fine to flush”.
“There are so many different types of wet wipes for sale but the labelling is really confusing,” she said.
“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.”
Downing Street said it wants to end “the throwaway culture”.
A No 10 spokesman said the 25-year environment plan sets out “a commitment to eliminate avoidable plastic waste”.
“We are working closely with with the manufacturers and water companies to ensure labelling is clear on wet wipes and also raising awareness on how to dispose of them properly,” the spokesman said.
“We are bringing in new powers for ministers to introduce charges on all single-use items, not just plastics, helping to cut waste and put an end to the throwaway culture.”