A Labour MP is calling for a new law to ban all wet wipes that contain plastic.
Fleur Anderson’s Bill proposes to prohibit the manufacture and sale of wet wipes containing plastic and 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,” the Putney MP 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.”
Ms Anderson said that everyone should “bin and not flush wet wipes”, but either way the plastic they contain still gets in the environment and kills wildlife.
She added: “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.”
Around 90% of the 11 billion wet wipes used in the UK every year contain some form of plastic that turns into microplastics when broken down, Ms Anderson claims, which can ultimately be ingested by wildlife and enter the food chain and water supply.
The MP also highlighted that wet wipes are the cause of 93% of blockages in UK sewers.
“Just one sewage station in East London removes 30 tonnes of wet wipes every day,” she said.
“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.”
As well as causing environmental damage and polluting marine environments, she said the issue is also costing water companies around £100m per year to clear 300,000 blockages.
“That is money that then ends up on our water bills each month,” she said.
Ms Anderson is also calling for manufacturers to switch to non-plastic alternatives, as well as 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.
She said it has been “years” since the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) 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.”
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A Defra spokesperson told the BBC: “Through our 25-year environment plan, we have a clear commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste.
“We are working with manufacturers and water companies to ensure labelling is clear on wet wipes and also raising awareness about how to dispose of them properly.”
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