Wet wipes containing plastic to be banned in UK

Published 22nd Apr 2024 by PB Admin

Wet wipes and makeup removal wipes that contain plastic are set to be banned across the UK, the Environment Secretary confirmed today (April 22, 2024), on Earth Day 2024. 

The popular beauty tools, which consumers often use to remove make-up, are non-biodegradable, meaning they slowly break down into microplastics, which can then be ingested by marine life or end up in landfill.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it intends to bring forward the legislation for England this summer, with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales following by the autumn, as part of an aligned approach to bring the ban into force.

Defra originally announced its intention to ban the wipes back in 2018. This followed the UK ban on plastic microbeads in personal care products which came into force earlier that year.

Defra said a recent survey showed that an average of 20 wet wipes were found per 100m of beach surveyed across the UK.

Once in our water environment, wet wipes containing plastic can accumulate biological and chemical pollutants, increasing the risk of harm to the animals and humans who encounter them.

The ban aims to reduce plastic and microplastic pollution and reduce the volume of microplastics entering wastewater treatment sites when wrongly flushed.

The ban will be introduced via secondary legislation under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The government’s response has been published today alongside the Welsh Government, Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: "Wet wipes containing plastic are polluting our waterways and causing microplastics to enter the environment.

"Defra will introduce legislation before the summer recess to crack down on this unnecessary source of pollution, following our successful single-use carrier bag charge and ban on microbeads in personal care products.  

He added, "Plastic-free wet wipes are readily available and several retailers have already stopped selling wet wipes containing plastic."

An 18-month transition period will start from when legislation is passed to allow businesses time to prepare, meaning the outright ban will come in late 2026.

However, the ban will only cover UK sale of the wipes and will not include the manufacture of these products for other markets.

The Government said there will also be exemptions to ensure that wet wipes containing plastic remain available where there is no viable alternative – such as for medical disinfectant purposes. 

PB Admin

PB Admin

Published 22nd Apr 2024

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