My Lords, I support Amendment 120, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. No one who saw last April’s “Panorama” programme on the state of our rivers could possibly not support this amendment. That picture of what initially looked like a sandbank in the River Thames but was in fact a huge pile of wet wipes and other plastic-fibre sanitary items was simply disgusting to me. I do not think that that is an overreaction on my part.
In evidence given to the Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee, one witness—one assumes that he was an expert and knew what he was talking about—addressed plastic-fibre wet wipes, stating:
“every day 7 million wet wipes ... are flushed ... down the toilet”.
There were also
“2.5 million tampons, 1.5 million sanitary pads and 700,000 panty liners”,
all currently with a varying degree of plastic content. They do not dissolve or break down but, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, have to be raked out of the sewage treatment works and sent to landfill.
The flushing of these products is already illegal. I believe that they can now all be produced without plastic content; in other words, to a “fine to flush” standard. They can now be produced in materials which are equally effective, but which can and do break down within the sewage system, like paper. So I make a plea: the Government should look into this issue and then, I hope, announce a legal end date for the production of all sanitary goods that are not produced to a flushable standard. In the meantime, as Amendment 120 proposes, we should ensure that all the current products are clearly marked as non-flushable.