Fleur Anderson MP with her Bill to ban wet wipes containing plastic.
Fleur Anderson MP with her Bill to ban wet wipes containing plastic.

Campaign to Ban Plastic in Wet Wipes Update – 20th January 2023

Today my Private Members’ Bill to Ban Plastic in Wet Wipes has it’s “second reading”.

Unfortunately, due to Parliamentary protocol, there is little chance of my Bill getting debating time today and it is therefore likely to be postponed until a future date.

The campaign has strong cross-party support and resulted in the Government launching a consultation on banning plastic in wet wipes in 2021. This closed last February and the results were promised by the end of last year. I hoped that by today a ban could have been announced. But the results have still not been published.

It is very good news that some retailers have gone ahead and banned wet wipes made from plastic from all of their shops and this shows that the ban could be put in place across the country.

I welcome the news announced last weekend that the Government have brought forward a welcome ban on certain plastic items, including single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers. This ban will be introduced from October 2023, allowing businesses time to prepare. You can read about it here. 

However, I am very disappointed that this did not include wet wipes made from plastic. The Government has once again chosen to kick this into the long grass. All we have got is a vague commitment to explore further measures and a new research project that will look into the impact of wet wipes on blockages in the sewage system, and will inform any future policy actions. I have written to the Secretary of State to ask for more information about this research and request a meeting.

We do not need more research. There is already a wealth of information and analysis on the problems that wet wipes made from plastic cause because they do not breakdown and block sewers and stay on riverbanks. The water companies and conservation organisations provided comprehensive evidence of this to the Government’s consultation.

Every day that millions of wet wipes made from plastic are flushed does more and more damage to our water systems, marine life and river foreshores. The time for research is long over. It is time for action.

I have given Ministers a set of policy recommendations on a plate that have the backing of water companies, retailers and manufacturers:

  1. Establish a timetable by which wet wipe manufacturers must phase out the use of plastic in wet wipes
  2. Identify which professional healthcare wipes, if any, should be exempt from the plastic phase out timetable and keep these to a minimum
  3.  Take steps to ensure that the costs of transitioning to non-plastic wet wipes are not transferred to the consumer or public services and apply extended producer responsibility to wet wipes producers
  4. Adopt with immediate effect the European Union Single Use Plastics Directive on wet wipe labelling

Thank you to all the members of the public, Parliamentarians, water companies and environmental organisations that are supporting the ban. This campaign and my Bill will continue until the Government stops sitting on their hands and bans plastic in wet wipes.

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