Wet wipes could be banned in government plans to eliminate single-use plastic, with almost all wet wipes being made with plastic to improve their structure and make them more durable. The plastic is not biodegradable and eventually breaks down to become microplastic.
According to Water UK, wet wipes are the cause of 93 per cent of sewer blockages in the UK, and as they travel through the sewage system they become stuck to cooking fats poured down the drains, which cools and solidifies. In turn, this creates fatbergs, which block the sewers.
Wet wipes are branded with consumer information instructing that they should not be flushed down the toilet, for this reason. However, flushable wipes are increasingly becoming problem as these products still contain the same plastic woven into the wipes that is in regular wet wipes.
A spokesperson from Defra said: “We are continuing to work with manufacturers and retailers of wet wipes to make sure labelling on packaging is clear and people know how to dispose of them properly.”
The UK government has already called for a ban on plastic cotton buds, straws, drink stirrers and other single-use plastic products as part of their 25 year environment plan. As wet wipes fall in to this category, there is encouragement from Defra for manufacturers to work on new innovative ideas.