Baby wipes could be banned under government plans to tackle water pollution

4 April 2023, 09:20

It comes as part of the government's Plan for Water
It comes as part of the government's Plan for Water. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Wet wipes are set to be banned under new government plans to tackle water pollution.

In its new proposed 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.

It also includes a consultation on a ban of plastic in wet wipes and restrictions on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foam, textiles, cleaning products, paints and varnishes.

In the UK, around 11 billion wet wipes are used every year. Nine in ten contain plastic, figures suggest.

While important for parents and their children, plastic-based wet wipes are considered to be extremely harmful to the environment.

Some shops, including Tesco and Boots, have already banned plastic-based wipes.

Many wet wipes could be banned if the plans are introduced
Many wet wipes could be banned if the plans are introduced. Picture: Alamy

It comes after the Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said that water companies could face unlimited penalties for dumping sewage in water.

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.

"This is not straightforward, but I take this issue extremely seriously and things need to change. That's why we have developed this plan and we are committed to delivering the progress that people want to see."

Nine in ten wet wipes have plastic in them
Nine in ten wet wipes have plastic in them. Picture: Getty

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Other proposals include giving farmers £34 million to improve pollution from slurry as well as £10 million to fund more on-farm reservoirs and better irrigation equipment.

The Government also wants to encourage water companies to install more smart meters in households to reduce water demand and help rare chalk stream habitats with a £1 million fund.

Responding to plans to speed up water infrastructure investment, Labour's shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon said: "This announcement is nothing more than a shuffling of the deck chairs and a reheating of old, failed measures that simply give the green light for sewage dumping to continue for decades to come.

"This is the third sham of a Tory water plan since the summer. There's nothing in it that tells us how, if or when they will end the Tory sewage scandal."