Sea Champions have been busy pledging their support for MCS's new Campaign - Wet Wipes Turn Nasty! Emma Cunningham, Senior Pollution Campaigns Officer tells us a bit more about it.
So what's the problem and why should we care?
Wet wipes are ending up as litter on our beaches, causing massive problems for us and our wildlife. Thanks to our flushing habits, we have seen a 400% increase in the average levels of wet wipes on British beaches over the last decade.
However, it’s not all our fault that we're so confused. Some wet wipes have such tiny print or “do not flush” logos on the back that you probably wouldn’t notice them. Combine this with the fact that many flushable and non-flushable products look identical and it’s clear why many consumers are confused about what to do. We even found a couple of packs of “flushable” wet wipes with “harmful to aquatic life” written on the back of the packaging! However, even those labelled as flushable, dispersible or moist toilet tissue aren’t meeting the water industry standards and can result in clogged up pipes and drains, risking raw sewage being flooded back into our homes or raised into our waterways and seas.
We found almost 4,000 wipes on UK beaches during one single weekend last September (MCS Great British Beach Clean). This is unsightly, but why else should we care?
There’s the economic reasons: it costs from £66 to £200 for a plumber to unblock drains that have been clogged by wet wipes, and it costs the water companies £80 to £90 million a year (which is also paid for by us through higher customer bills). And if you don’t care about the litter on our beaches and your children playing in stuff that has come through the sewerage system on the beach, or how much it costs us all in blockages, have a thought for the wildlife. These wet wipes typically contain plastic and once in our seas this plastic forms part of the greater problem of microplastics at sea. This microplastic, once in the oceans, is eaten by zooplankton, which forms the base of the food chain; they are eaten by the fish we eat.
What can we do about it?
Firstly it's simple, if you use a wet wipe, don't flush it. Remember the golden rule, only pee, poo and paper down the loo.
Secondly, we're asking high street retailers to cut the confusion and clearly state on their labels that only pee, poo and paper should go down the loo. Please join our battle against the wet wipe monsters, sign the MCS petition for clearer labelling at wetwipesturnnasty.com and spread the word!