Disposable Wipes: Biodegradability

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 25th March 2019.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps the Government is taking to ban the marketing of single-use wipes as flushable if they do not conform to the Water UK approved fine to flush standard.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy, the actions we will take to encourage producers to take more responsibility for the lifespan of their products and make sure these are more carefully designed with resource efficiency, and waste prevention in mind. This includes wet wipes.

The Government is working with the water industry and wet wipe manufacturers to prevent wet wipes entering our waterways and damaging our marine environment. I hosted a cross industry wet wipes roundtable in November 2016, to tackle the issue of wipes being incorrectly flushed and causing sewer blockages. Following the meeting, revised wet wipe industry guidance requires a ‘Do Not Flush’ label to be displayed far more prominently on non-flushable wipes.

We support the water industry’s ongoing work on their voluntary ‘Fine to Flush’ label, to ensure that any wipes which are marked as being ‘flushable’, are plastic free and are truly flushable, meaning they can enter the sewage system without causing blockages or harming the environment. We are actively encouraging the water and wet wipe industries to work together to develop an agreed ‘flushability’ standard for those wipes that are intended for disposal via toilets.

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