Government steps up drive to banish single-use plastic that's blighting ... trends now
Wet wipes containing toxic plastic could be banned under Government plans to clean up rivers and seas.
Stricter labelling could also be brought in to urge consumers not to flush the single-use items down the toilet – even if they do not contain plastic.
Ministers are expected to announce the crackdown in the coming days, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Plastic-free wet wipes would be unaffected by any ban, and many manufacturers have already started to switch to more sustainable alternatives. However, the most recent figures show 90 per cent of the 11 billion wet wipes used in the UK each year contain plastic, says the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).
96% of survey respondents said they would support a ban on wet wipes containing plastic
When flushed, all wet wipes help to create fatbergs – a mass of wipes, paper, cooking fat and sewage that clogs up sewers, pollutes rivers and harms wildlife.
Despite some being labelled as 'fine to flush', there are also concerns about how long wet wipes take to break down.
Two years ago, Ministers called for evidence as to whether plastic wet wipes should face a total ban.
When the findings were published earlier this year, 96 per cent of respondents to an official survey said they would support a ban on wet wipes containing plastic, though only 50 per cent of manufacturers agreed.
The Government response said: 'Given public appetite for implementing a ban on wet wipes containing plastic, we note this to be a course of action that will be carefully considered.'
Any ban or stricter labelling will be subject to consultation.
Wet wipes are believed to be responsible for 93 per cent of the blockages in sewers, costing £100 million a year to clear. Companies have been accused by MPs of wrongly labelling their products as flushable. The MCS has called for wet wipes to carry a 'fine to flush' label only if manufacturers can prove they break down fully.
Allison Ogden-Newton, of Keep Britain Tidy, said: 'Wet wipes are the devil's work. They are largely single-use plastics that, once in the sewerage system, via our loos, cause no end of environmental damage.
'They block our Victorian plumbing leading to increased use of overflow pipes and even more raw sewage entering our rivers and seas.
'Manufacturing claims that they are 'flushable', or 'biodegradable' are untested.
'What we do know is they are so damaging they've formed monumental mounds in our waterways, changing the course of rivers like the Thames. Then, the best we can hope for is they disintegrate into micro