Wet wipes could face wipe-out

Image copyright Thames Drinking water
Image caption Wet wipes are a key element of fatbergs – like this giant one which weighed as much as 10 double decker buses

Wet wipes, used for gross fingers and removing eye makeup, as well as on other parts of the anatomy, can themselves be wiped out over the following couple of decades.

The federal government says its plan to eliminate plastic-type material waste “includes single use items like wet wipes”.

The wipes contain non-biodegradable plastic material.

So manufacturers can either have to develop plastic-free baby wipes or consumers will have to go without having.

Wet wipes are behind 93% of blockages within UK sewers, a key element of the particular infamous giant obstacles known as fatbergs, according to Water UK, the business body representing all of the main drinking water and sewerage companies in the country.

Which has prompted the government and industry to pay attention to persuading consumers not to flush all of them into the waste water system.

“We are usually continuing to work with manufacturers and merchants of wet wipes to make sure labelling on packaging is clear and people learn how to dispose of them properly, ” the spokesperson for the Department of the Atmosphere (Defra) said.

Media playback will be unsupported on your device

Media caption A very lazy person’s guide to cutting plastic from the life

However , Defra says additionally it is “encouraging innovation so that more and more of the products can be recycled and are dealing with industry to support the development of alternatives, like a wet-wipe product that does not contain plastic-type and can therefore be flushed”.


Fact check: What is a fatberg?

Despite the name, fatbergs are in fact mainly made up of wet wipes. They will account for a startling 93% from the material blocking our sewers based on Water UK, the membership entire body for water providers.

They collected samples in order to analyse from blockages in sewers, pumps and wastewater treatment functions.

Wet baby wipes – mostly baby wipes, but additionally those used to remove make up plus clean surfaces – made up most the material.

Fat, oil and grease just made up 0. 5%.

The other 7% was made up of a variety of other materials including feminine hygiene items, cotton pads and plastic packages.

Toilet paper composed just 0. 01% of the materials blocking our pipes and sewers.

Environmental charities which includes Greenpeace and the Marine Conservation Culture say they are not surprised by this particular high number, since wet wipes will often be marketed as “flushable”.


The wet-wipe business has flourished over the last decade along with manufacturers offering an ever wider range of wipes, for sensitive pores and skin, babies’ bottoms, removing make-up, using insect repellent, deodorant or sunscreen. However most are made of polyester as well as other non-biodegradable materials.

One particular manufacturer, Jeremy Freedman, managing movie director of Guardpack, has written in order to his MP to say banning all of them would be environmentally disastrous.

Mr Freedman told the BBC what he saw as their advantages: “If you go to TGI Friday plus Nando’s, for example , you’ll see our items there.

“These wipes are biodegradeable, take 3ml of liquid on average. If they were unable able to use these, they would have to wash their hands, using typically one litre of water.

“They are also widely used within the medical industry and, for people with incontinence plus disabled people, these wipes are usually critical to their lifestyle. ”

He said many of the baby wipes he produced were made of totally biodegradable materials, but warned these were under no circumstances flushable.

Defra is in the process of exploring how modifications to the tax system or fees could be used to reduce the amount of single-use plastics wasted.

Prime Minister Theresa May pledged in January to eradicate every “avoidable plastic waste” by 2042.

The government has additionally said it will consult over whether to ban plastic straws, natural cotton buds and drink stirrers.