Island of wet wipes has 'changed the course of the Thames' as government considers ban

·2-min read

An island the size of two tennis courts has "changed the course" of the River Thames - and it's made from wet wipes.

Campaigners regularly comb through the muck on the riverbank near Hammersmith Bridge, where they find up to 150 wet wipes per square metre.

The UK uses 11 billion of the "disposable" products every year, according to Labour MP Fleur Anderson, causing untold problems for the environment and wreaking havoc on plumbing to the tune of £100m in blockages.

The government is considering a ban on wet wipes, but Ms Anderson wants the issue resolved faster, and has tabled legislation to bring it about.

It comes after Boots pledged to stop selling all wet wipes containing plastic by the end of the year.

Speaking during a session of questions on the environment, food and rural affairs in the Commons, Ms Anderson told MPs: "Billions of wet wipes containing plastic are still being used across the country, causing environmental damage, blocking our sewers."

She added: "There's an island the size of two tennis courts, and I've been and stood on it - it's near Hammersmith Bridge in the Thames, and it's a metre deep or more in places of just wet wipes. It's actually changed the course of the River Thames."

Wet wipe companies, she said, are able to substitute plastic with other materials, adding: "It's perfectly possible… there are biodegradable alternatives such as bamboo."

Ms Anderson pointed to the current "confusing packaging", adding: "That's why banning any plastic in the manufacture of wet wipes is really important… It's very confusing for the public, they want to do the right thing."

Read more: Thousands of 'unflushable' wet wipes found on one stretch of the Thames shore

Environment minister Rebecca Pow asked that if members of the public do need to use wet wipes, they do not flush them down the toilet.

Asked about a ban in the Commons, she said: "We are working our way through the details and, of course, we have to make sure that, if a ban is brought in, it doesn't have knock-on effects that will cause similar problems because, even though other wet wipes might be deemed suitable to flush, they still get stuck in sewers, so we have to be mindful of all of that.

"What I would say to everybody is if you don't need to use a wet wipe, don't, but also don't chuck them down the loo."