The government has announced it is to ban wet wipes containing plastic in an attempt to reduce the problem of water pollution in England.
Environment minister Therese Coffey told BBC News consumers will not be able to purchase the items from next year, as they are often found in rivers and waterways, reducing the water quality in the country.
She told the news provider the ban follows a short consultation, which took place earlier this year, adding: “It’s a legal requirement to make sure that we can go ahead with any ban.”
This follows a previous consultation in 2021, which found 96 per cent of the public supported the idea of banning the products. The idea had first been floated in 2018 when the government announced its plans to reduce plastic waste included getting rid of these wet wipes.
The ban comes as part of the government’s Plan for Water initiative to improve water quality in England.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is looking to potentially ban PFAS, which are considered ‘forever chemicals’ as they are so hard to break down. It will also look at reducing farming pollution, as part of the campaign.
A parliamentary report from 2022 showed that farming is the most common cause for river pollution.
It revealed that only 14 per cent of rivers in England have a good ecological status, thanks to a ‘chemical cocktail’ of agricultural and road pollution, sewage, and single-use plastics.
In fact, there was not a single river in the country that was not contaminated by chemicals, which is putting public health and freshwater ecosystems at serious risk.
Rt Hon Philip Dunne, Environmental Audit committee chairman, said: “Rivers are the arteries of nature and must be protected. Our inquiry has uncovered multiple failures in the monitoring, governance and enforcement of water quality.”
He noted that England’s Victorian sewage system is starting to “buckle under increasing pressure”.
Consequently, he argued there needs to be better enforcement, public awareness needs boosting, and monitoring has to be improved.
Banning plastic wet wipes is the first step to clearing the pollution from England’s rivers and improving its water quality.
According to Water UK, wet wipes flushed down the toilet result in nearly all (93 per cent) sewer blockages. The impact of this is not just environmental, but financial, as it costs £100 million a year to clear these blockages.
New research from the organisation revealed more than one-fifth of the public flush wet wipes down the toilet, even though 88 per cent know doing so can negatively impact the environment.
Despite this, things have certainly improved over the years, with nearly all wet wipes containing plastic as recently as 2021. However, now some major retailers, such as Boots and Tesco, have stopped selling wet wipes that contain plastic, as they do not break down over time and are causing serious pollution problems in the country.
One way businesses can ensure the water they use is not polluted is through commercial rainwater harvesting, as rain is collected before being filtered and run through the building. In addition to being free from toxins, it can save businesses money on water bills, and help reduce the load on water company sewage systems due to periods of heavy rainfall, with the effects of climate change increasing rain fall contributing to flooding due to sewage systems becoming overun with increased rainwater run off.
Commercial rain water harvesting is great for business and our environment.