Ban plastic in wet wipes
Fleur has been campaigning against plastic in wet wipes since November 2021. Over a 11 billion wet wipes are used every year in the UK. The plastic means that wet wipes don’t break down and clog our pipes and damages our oceans and rivers.
The campaign has cross-party support and support of environmental organisations and we have had some good successes. Boots and Tesco have banned them from their stores and the Government has said it will ban plastic in wet wipes but hasn’t said when this will come into force.
What is the problem:
- In the UK, an astonishing 11 billion wet wipes are used every year, 90% of which contain some form of plastic. That is 163 wet wipes for everyone in the UK every year.
- The plastic in wet wipes breaks down into microplastics, which can be ingested by marine and riverine animals, including zooplankton, and are entering into our food chain and water supply.
- 100 million marine animals die each year from plastic waste alone, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. Nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastics.
- Globally, the wet wipes market is worth US$ 3.7 Billion and is growing rapidly. It is projected to be worth US$ 8.0 Billion by the end of 2031(Source: Future Market Insights).
- Wet wipes are behind 93% of blockages in UK sewers and are even changing the shape of our rivers as they pile up on beds and banks. In 2018, Thames21 retrieved over 5000 wet wipes from the Thames bed during an operation on a 116m stretch of the river.
- Each year water companies spend £100 million dealing with 300,000 sewer blockages – money that is then added to the consumer’s bill. • The Thames Water area alone has on average 85,000 blockages a year due to fat and wet wipes.
The campaign so far:
On 2nd November 2021 Fleur introduced a Private Members Bill in Parliament and reintroduced it on 21st October 2022. Fleur also introduced this in Parliament as a ten-minute rule bill on 3rd May 2022 and urged the Government to ban plastic in wet wipes now during Prime Minister’s Questions on 6th September 2023.
The Government launched a consultation on commonly used single use plastic items between 20th November and 12th February 2022. https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environmental-quality/call-for-evidence-on-commonly-littered-and-problem/supporting_documents/Call%20for%20evidence%20document.pdf
The Environmental Audit Committee’s report ‘Water Quality in Rivers’ made this the top of their recommendations. You can view the report here.
Tesco and Boots have beaten the Government by going ahead and banning wet wipes with plastic in all their stores. This shows that it can be done and with a date for a ban in place all producers and retailers will act faster.
The Government included a promise to ban plastic in wet wipes in the Water Strategy launched on April 4th, 2023, but said that it would hold another consultation first and there has been no date for the ban.
On September 6th, Fleur asked the Prime Minister to set a date, but he said that here will be a consultation launched in October 2023.
What comes next?
It’s simple. The Government need to announce the date for the Ban on Plastic in Wet Wipes, together with any phasing out deadline and any exemptions, for example on medical grounds.
Plastic pollution action NOW
Letter: Ban plastic in wet wipes
For the past year, I have been leading the campaign to #BanPlasticInWetWipes alongside marine advocacy groups and industry partners.
The UK uses a staggering 11 billion wet wipes per year and billions still contain plastic. This is causing untold damage to our water systems and marine environments.
While the industry is slowly moving in the right direction, it is not moving fast enough. We still need legislation to phase out plastic in wipes for good and to improve the labelling around flushing.
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.
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. I put down a 10 Minute Rule Bill in November last year, and have since been in discussions with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on how we might move this forward. The department are very interested in the campaign and in response earlier in the year launched a consultation on Commonly Littered Single Use Plastic Items, which specifically included wet wipes.
With the Government in turmoil and the end of the last Parliament formally ending my old Bill’s journey, I have once again put my Bill forward and intend to make sure the new Minister continues this work and implements the views expressed in the consultation, which has been closed for five months now but, disappointingly, with no further actions since.
I am delighted to have cross-party support and the support of organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society, Thames 21, the Green Alliance, Water UK, Thames Water, Water UK and the WWF.
Thank you to those who have supported me so far.
Enough is enough – let’s #BanPlasticInWetWipes once and for all.
Wet Wipe News – November 2022
I have been campaigning to ban plastic in wet wipes for over a year. At the start of the campaign a lot of action happened, but this slowed down, so I’ve been taking action to keep up pressure on the Government to get on with the ban.
Private Members Bill
On Friday 21st October I re-introduced my Private Members Bill to Ban Plastic in Wet Wipes and I hope the Government will support this or support secondary legislation to the Environment Protection Act (1990) to bring in the ban.
When I introduced my Bill for the first time last year there was strong support from MPs of all parties and from the public – also, the wet wipe industry said it could be done. This led to a government consultation which ended in February and now we are waiting for the outcome of the consultation then for a timetable of moving towards a ban.
Bin the Wipe Parliamentary Reception
This month I brought together the Environment Minister Trudy Harrison MP, Water UK, Marine Conservation Society, Philip Dunne MP (Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee), Ruth Jones MP (Shadow Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation) and Heidi Mottran (CEO of Northumbrian Water) and many more for a big event in Parliament to continue the campaign.
MPs and environmental groups attended to show their support for the campaign. We all agree – we want action.
The Minister promised the Government will take action to ban plastic in wet wipes and will publish the findings of the consultation by the end of the year. This is progress, but I’d like to see faster action.
Big Wet Wipe Count
The week before the Reception, I was out again on the bank of the Thames, trudging through Wet Wipe Island and counting plastic pollution with Thames21 and the Port of London Authority. A huge thanks to all the citizen scientists who help to count the wet wipes and show any changes and show the sheer quantity that litter our riverbanks, harm wildlife and damage the environment.
Action on Sewage
I’ve also been calling on my colleagues this week in Parliament to step up and protect our waterways.
Sewage pollution is rightly top of our news agenda, and a ban on plastic in wet wipes is part of the solution. https://twitter.com/PutneyFleur/status/1582749755674808331/video/1
The Rest is Politics mention!
I’m grateful to Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart for highlighting this issue on their excellent podcast The Rest Is Politics.
£100 million per year is the price we pay for sewage blockages, 91% of which are caused by flushed wet wipes.
New National Campaign: Bin the Wipe
WaterUK – the umbrella organising for all the water companies in the UK – are launching their first ever national campaign and it’s on binning wet wipes.
Some retailers showing that it can be done
I’m delighted that Tesco and Boots have already banned the sale of wet wipes containing plastic in their stores.
I’m calling on all retailers to do the same.