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Wet wipes containing plastic to be banned from sale in UK

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LONDON, April 22: Wet wipes containing plastic will be banned from being sold in the UK following legislation to be tabled in Parliament soon, the British government announced on Monday, as the world marked as Earth Day.

UK Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will table the legislation for England before Parliament’s summer recess in July.

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The devolved regions of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are expected to follow on with their legislation later in the year to make it a UK-wide ban as part of an aligned approach.

“Wet wipes containing plastic are polluting our waterways and causing microplastics to enter the environment,” said Barclay.

“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… Plastic-free wet wipes are readily available, and several retailers have already stopped selling wet wipes containing plastic,” he said.

The minister said it was part of a “step change” needed to protect the country’s waterways from pollution.

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“The ban builds on a raft of actions already taken to protect our waterways and hold water companies accountable – including accelerating investment, putting water company fines back into the environment and quadrupling the number of inspections of water company sites,” he added.

According to DEFRA’s Beach Litter Monitoring Data for 2015-2020, an average of 20 wet wipes were found per 100 metres of beach surveyed across the UK.

Once in the 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.

Banning them is expected to reduce plastic and microplastic pollution and reduce the volume of microplastics entering wastewater treatment sites when wrongly flushed.

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The ban follows a public consultation on the issue, which showed overwhelming support for such a move.

The law will be introduced via secondary legislation under the UK’s Environmental Protection Act 1990, with 95 per cent of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the proposals.

An 18-month transition period will start from when legislation is passed to allow businesses time to prepare. Following consultation with industry, the ban will not include the manufacture of these products, in line with other recent single-use plastic bans.

“Boots removed all wet wipes containing plastic from sale in stores and online last year as part of our long-standing commitment to sustainability and working with suppliers and customers to reduce the use of plastic,” said Steve Ager, Chief Customer and Commercial Officer at Boots, one of the UK’s largest retailers of such products.

“We are pleased to see the government now taking action as a ban on all wet wipes containing plastic will have a much bigger impact than retailers taking action alone,” Ager said.

The government said it will continue to encourage manufacturers to move to a position where all their wet wipes are plastic-free.

Some exemptions will be factored in to ensure that wet wipes containing plastic remain available where there is no viable alternative – such as for medical disinfectant purposes. DEFRA said it will review the need for these exemptions regularly.

Earth Day is an annual event held on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. (PTI)





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