The UK’s efforts to reduce single-use plastic waste are gaining momentum and wet wipes are their latest target. As part of a string of new measures to crack down on plastics used in the country, Environmental Secretary Michael Gove is planning to completely “eliminate” the wasteful baby wipes.
Wet wipes may seem like an unlikely candidate for a ban, but what many of us do not realize, is that the wipes are not actually made of tissue paper and are not easily degradable. Most wet wipes are made with plastic resins like polyester or polypropylene. As such, wet wipes never fully biodegrade, they simply break into smaller and smaller pieces – releasing countless microscopic fibers into the environment.
In the UK alone, millions of wipes are thrown down sewers, even though they definitely should not be discarded in that way. According to a study conducted last year by Water UK, wet wipes made up an astounding 93 percent of the material causing blockages. The wipes clog internal plumbing, septic systems, and public sewer systems. Recently, campaigners found more than 5,000 discarded wet wipes alongside the Thames in an area only the size of half of a tennis court, the Guardian reports. The alarmingly voluminous haul was an increase of almost a thousand over the total of wipes collected last year.
“As part of our 25-year environmental plan we have pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, and that includes single-use products that include plastic wet wipes,” said a statement issued by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
If measures to ban wet wipes in the country are taken, the new regulations will have a chance to positively influence British rivers that are now suffering from this specific and dangerous pollution.
Every year, over 8.8 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans. Among this huge amount of trash are such items as single-use cups, bottles, and straws. To find out how you can help the planet by ditching those and other similar disposables, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!
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