Ban on wet wipes containing plastic unveiled to help UK’s rivers

Wet wipes containing plastic are finally set to be banned across the UK as ministers warn a ‘step change’ is needed to protect the country’s rivers.

The long-awaited announcement comes after a campaign against the products which have been blamed for hundreds of thousands of blockages in the UK sewer system costing millions of pounds a year.

Manufacturers have also come under fire discarded wipes increasingly littering Britain's beaches.

Under plans to be set out by the environment secretary Steve Barclay it will become illegal to sell or supply wet wipes which contain plastic.

But Labour said the move did not go far enough and called for there also to be a full ban on the manufacture of plastic wet wipes.

Mr Barclay said the move would be a “step change… to protect our waterways from pollution.”

But shadow environment secretary Steve Reed accused ministers of breaking their pledge.

He said: "Plastic wet wipes clog up our sewers, kill wildlife and lead to sewage backing up into people's homes.

"The Conservatives have broken their promises to act and are too weak to ban them outright."

Labour also accused the Tories of a lengthy delay after the party first promised to ban wet wipes in 2018, as part of a wider crackdown on plastics.

The ban follows a consultation late last year, which showed overwhelming public support for the move.

A previous consultation, in 2021, also found more than 90% of people were in favour of a ban.

Some businesses such as Boots, Aldi and Tesco have already moved to ban wet wipes containing plastics from their stores.

Steve Ager, from Boots, said: "We are pleased to see the government now taking action as a ban on all wet wipes containing plastic will have a much bigger impact than retailers taking action alone.

"We all have a collective responsibility to protect the environment and support a healthy planet."

Campaigners urged ministers to go further than bans on single items.

Jane Martin, chief executive of environmental organisation City To Sea, said: "It's a positive step forward to see the government take definitive action on banning this pollutant, but action must not end there.

"The Government should now look to tackle all single-use plastic products through further bans and mandated reuse and refill targets."

Legislation is expected before MPs break up for their summer break in July.