• Wednesday, May 29, 2024

HEALTH

Government bans wet wipes due to their adverse impact on environment

The ban is expected to mitigate plastic and microplastic pollution, reducing the strain on wastewater treatment facilities caused by incorrectly flushed wipes. (Photo credit: iStock)

By: Vibhuti Pathak

The British government announced on Monday, coinciding with Earth Day, that wet wipes containing plastic will soon be prohibited from sale in the UK.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay revealed that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will present the legislation for England to Parliament before the summer recess in July. This move is anticipated to be replicated by Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, forming a UK-wide ban.

Barclay emphasised the environmental impact of plastic-laden wet wipes, stating they contribute to waterway pollution and the dispersion of microplastics. DEFRA aims to address this by introducing legislation, akin to previous successful measures like the single-use carrier bag charge and the ban on microbeads in personal care products.

“Wet wipes containing plastic are polluting our waterways and causing microplastics to enter the environment, said Barclay.

Citing DEFRA’s Beach Litter Monitoring Data for 2015-2020, which found an average of 20 wet wipes per 100 meters of surveyed UK beaches, Barclay highlighted the urgent need for action. Once these wipes enter water environments, they can accumulate harmful pollutants, posing risks to both wildlife and humans.

“Defra will introduce legislation before the summer recess to crack down on this unnecessary saource of pollution, following our successful single-use carrier bag charge and ban on microbeads in personal care products. Plastic-free wet wipes are readily available and several retailers have already stopped selling wet wipes containing plastic,” he said.

The ban is expected to mitigate plastic and microplastic pollution, reducing the strain on wastewater treatment facilities caused by incorrectly flushed wipes. Following overwhelming public support garnered during a consultation period, the legislation will be introduced under the Environmental Protection Act of 1990. An 18-month transition period will allow businesses to adjust, with the ban excluding the manufacturing of these products, aligning with recent single-use plastic restrictions.

The minister said it was part of a ‘step change’ needed to protect the country’s waterways from pollution.

“The ban builds on a raft of actions already taken to protect our waterways and hold water companies accountable–including accelerating investment, putting water company fines back into the environment, and quadrupling the number of inspections of water company sites,” he added.

Major retailers like Boots have already taken proactive steps, removing plastic-containing wet wipes from their shelves last year. This initiative aligns with their commitment to sustainability and reducing plastic usage, showcasing collaborative efforts between industry stakeholders and consumers.

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