Government to ban plastic wet wipes in England as part of new plan to secure water supply

Wet wipes which contain plastic could be banned as part of the government’s new plan to secure the England’s water supply and tackle pollution.

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In its Plan for Water, the government has said it wants to see more investment from water companies, stronger regulation and tougher enforcement for those who pollute. The Plan for Water also includes a consultation on a ban on plastic in wet wipes and restrictions on polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foam, textiles, cleaning products, paints and varnishes.

When flushed down a toilet, a plastic wet wipe can cause serious damage to sewers and aquatic life. The wipes don’t break down and end up as foundation for enormous fatbergs that can be difficult to remove.

Plastic wet wipes often end up in rivers and can be toxic to aquatic life, while even ‘flushable’ wet wipes often are only slightly better, according to the World Wildlife Federation. Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said on Saturday that water companies could face unlimited penalties for dumping sewage, which would be reinvested into a new Water Restoration Fund.

Ms Coffey said: “Our rare chalk streams and world-famous coastlines, lakes and rivers are hugely important to local communities and to nature. I completely understand the concerns that people have about the health and resilience of our waters, which is why I am setting out this plan for a truly national effort to protect and improve them.

“That includes higher penalties taken from water company profits which will be channelled back into the rivers, lakes and streams where it is needed."

Wet wipes are choking beaches, blocking pipes and resulting in sewage spills and pollution at sea, contaminating water for both bathers and marine life. The Marine Conservation Society is now calling for the Scottish Government to ban plastic in single-use wet wipes, which have been turning up on Scottish beaches in increasing quantities in recent years, as soon as possible. Picture: MCSWet wipes are choking beaches, blocking pipes and resulting in sewage spills and pollution at sea, contaminating water for both bathers and marine life. The Marine Conservation Society is now calling for the Scottish Government to ban plastic in single-use wet wipes, which have been turning up on Scottish beaches in increasing quantities in recent years, as soon as possible. Picture: MCS
Wet wipes are choking beaches, blocking pipes and resulting in sewage spills and pollution at sea, contaminating water for both bathers and marine life. The Marine Conservation Society is now calling for the Scottish Government to ban plastic in single-use wet wipes, which have been turning up on Scottish beaches in increasing quantities in recent years, as soon as possible. Picture: MCS

Ms Coffey said that following the consultation, the ban could come into force next year. Some companies, including Boots and Tesco, have already stopped the sale of wet wipes which contain plastic from their shops.