The United Kingdom is considering a ban on wet wipes, according to CBS News. Single use products are the key target of potential legislation that would ban single-use items containing non-biodegradable plastic.
Wet wipes are often promoted as cotton or other material, but the wipes often contain plastic fibers that are causing 93% of sewer blockages in the United Kingdom, according to a new study.
The study, the largest in the UK, revealed that wet wipes, which are being flushed down toilets, are causing the blockages that are continually impacting the UK’s sewer systems. Baby wipes account for a large portion of the problem, which leads to 300,000 blockages annually. The blockages cost the government £100 million annually.
Experts are suggesting that parents take a more eco-friendly approach to their baby’s care, including choosing cloth nappies over store-bought nappies. The switch would reduce the average annual cost of nappies from £800 to just £100 annually. Wet wipes are to be replaced with cloth wipes, microfiber options or other non-flushable materials.
Wet wipes don’t break down in water, instead they stay in the pipes and merge with the fat in the systems. The end result are what experts call “fatbergs,” or massive clumps of fat that start to block the sewer system.
The United Kingdom’s Environment Agency claims that flushing wet wipes is environmental littering.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are working to encourage alternative options to wet wipes. The agency is working with the industry to develop new alternatives that don’t create plastic, allowing them to be flushed without fear.
Prime Minister Theresa May has already set a goal to eliminate all plastic waste in the country by 2042. Cotton swabs and even plastic straws may be on the chopping block if the ban does go into place.
The wet wipes industry has flourished over the past 10 years. The industry has created wet wipes for everything from makeup removal to insect repellent and people with sensitive skin. Experts also claim that the ban may negatively impact non-violating products.
Some wipes are biodegradable, used in restaurant industries, and reduce the overall amount of water used to clean an employee’s hands. The result of a complete ban on wet wipes would result in using approximately one liter of water to wash an employee’s hands.
Many wet wipe options are biodegradable, but these products are still not designed to be flushed down the toilet.