UK Government Announces Ban on Plastic-Containing Wet Wipes to Tackle Pollution- 2024

wet wipes

The UK Government has announced its plan to ban the supply and sale of wet wipes containing plastic, following overwhelming public support during a recent consultation. This new legislation, aimed at reducing plastic pollution and cleaning up waterways, is expected to be introduced this year.

UK Government Announces Ban on Wet Wipes

Under the leadership of Environment Secretary Steve Barclay, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) intends to bring forward the legislation in England before the summer recess, with similar measures set to follow in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales by the autumn. The move is part of a concerted effort across the UK to tackle plastic pollution.

Wet wipes containing plastic are known to break down into microplastics, which can be harmful to both human health and ecosystems. A recent survey found an average of 20 wet wipes per 100 meters of beach surveyed across the UK, emphasizing the extent of the pollution problem. These plastic particles can accumulate biological and chemical pollutants in waterways, posing risks to wildlife and humans.

The planned ban aims to significantly reduce the amount of plastic and microplastic pollution entering wastewater treatment sites and, ultimately, the environment. The public consultation on the ban received widespread support, with 95% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the proposal. The government’s response has been published alongside those of the Welsh Government, Scottish Government, and Northern Ireland Executive.

Secretary of Environment Steve Barclay said “Wet wipes containing plastic are polluting our waterways and causing microplastics to enter the environment. By banning them, we can take a significant step towards reducing pollution. This builds on our successful single-use carrier bag charge and ban on microbeads in personal care products.”

Several retailers, including Boots and Aldi, have already transitioned to plastic-free wet wipes, showing that alternatives are available. Steve Ager, Commercial Officer at Boots, said, “Boots removed all wet wipes containing plastic from sale last year as part of our commitment to sustainability. We are pleased to see the government taking action to expand this effort.” Similarly, Luke Emery, Plastics and Packaging Director at Aldi, noted that their removal of plastic from wet wipes two years ago had already reduced an estimated 7,000 tons of unnecessary plastic from the system.

An 18-month transition period will be provided to allow businesses time to adapt. The ban of wet wipes will not include manufacturing, but the government will continue to encourage manufacturers to move towards plastic-free production. There will be exemptions for specific uses, such as medical disinfectant purposes, with the government committed to reviewing these exemptions regularly.

Overall, this legislation represents a significant step towards reducing plastic pollution and cleaning up the UK’s beaches and waterways.

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