Wet wipes to be banned in UK as part of drive to cut plastic waste

Wet wipes have already been blamed for feeding the growth of fatbergs in sewers: PA
Wet wipes have already been blamed for feeding the growth of fatbergs in sewers: PA

Wet wipes are to be banned in the UK as part of the Government’s crackdown on plastic being thrown away and damaging ecosystems.

The products, which contain non-biodegradable plastic, could be outlawed under Michael Gove’s plans to eliminate plastic waste, it was announced on Monday.

The growth of fatbergs like the 250-metre long lump that was found under the streets of Whitechapel, the largest ever discovered in London, are partly made up of wet wipes.

They have also been blamed for clogging up rivers. Wet wipes also slowly break down into micro-plastics that are then ingested by marine life.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “As part of our 25-year environment plan, we have pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, and that includes single-use products like wet wipes.

“We are continuing to work with manufacturers and retailers of wet wipes to make sure labelling on packaging is clear and people know how to dispose of them properly – and we support the industry’s efforts to make their customers aware of this important issue.”

Mr Gove, the Environment Secretary, has decided on the clampdown after a group that cleans up rivers last week revealed that wet wipes were changing the shapes of river beds.

Thames21 found more than 5,000 of them alongside London’s River Thames in an area half the size of a tennis court.

Members retrieved 5,453 wet wipes last month in an area in the west of the capital. They said similar accumulations were happening in rivers across the country.