Are you wiped out?

Wet wipes. Photo by Christine Sandu on Unsplash

We’re well into Plastic Free July and here’s another area where you can cut your plastic usage and help stop the blockages in our sewers and the pollution in our waterways.

Wet wipes – why are we so addicted to them?  Surface wipes, face cleansing wipes, floor wipes, make-up remover wipes, baby wipes, personal hygiene wipes, leather-cleaning wipes, dental wipes…. do we really need all or in fact any of these? There are exceptions are, of course, in the case of people with medical needs and for use in clinical environments; however, for the majority of the population, this is not a necessity.

The wipes are made of plastic fibres, taking 100 years to break down and then only into microplastics which marine life then swallow; eventually sneaking into the food chain!  The UK, though ranking 21st in the world for size of population, is the second biggest user in the world, getting through 11 billion wipes. You will have read that wipes make up between 80 per cent and 93 per cent of blockages in UK sewers and cost us (indirectly) £100 million a year to deal with these blockages. Not to mention polluting our rivers too.

Owners of septic tanks will know that flushing wipes can cause unnecessary blockages.  We also need to treat with extreme caution any words ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ and ‘flushable’ on the packet because these words cause much public misunderstanding.

What about the single-use unnecessary plastic packaging they are wrapped in (popping that in the supermarket collection point is not really the answer to reducing waste)? Some baby wipes boast that they are 99.9 per cent water – in that case, perhaps use a flannel/cloth/cotton wool and warm/hot water?! We could also use these more planet-friendly options for our faces as well, not to mention around the house. They could be made from recycling old cotton t-shirts or towels or they can be purchased online, in snazzy colours and patterns from zero-waste businesses, Etsy etc.  Use and pop in the wash with a load… after all that’s what washing machines are for!

The ingredients in wet wipes have been found to have chemicals, including sodium benzoate, used as a preservative (it is also used in certain fireworks!), which can react with other ingredients causing skin irritation. Another reason to ditch and switch..

So, folks, next time you go to buy a packet of wet wipes, have a think: do you really, really need them? Let’s not give in to the big companies who have made us think that wet wipes are indispensable for a fast, convenient and hygienic life!