Wet wipe on beach Natasha Ewins

Campaign win for banning plastic in wet wipes

2 minute read

After over a decade of campaigning, and countless hours spent by volunteers collecting vital data for Beachwatch – we are delighted by the announcement from all governments across the UK today banning the supply and sale of single-use wet wipes containing plastic. A fantastic win for our seas on this year's Earth Day!

The joint response from all four governments across the UK highlighted:

Building on the strong public support and given that wet wipes containing plastic are a source of plastic pollution and are often found in the environment, we will legislate to ban the supply and sale of wet wipes containing plastic across the UK. Each administration will introduce regulations separately via their respective legislative mechanisms.

Read the full response.

Our Head of Policy and Advocacy Calum Duncan welcomes the ban: "The announcement to ban plastic in single use wet wipes from governments across the UK today on Earth Day is fantastic news for UK beaches. Our volunteers found over 21,000 wet wipes on UK beaches in 2023 with some hotspot beaches recording thousands in a single 100m stretch."

We know that single-use plastic policies work – numbers of single-use plastic bags have more than halved since charges were introduced, and we look forward to our volunteers recording a decline in plastic wet wipes as the bans are implemented.

Calum Duncan, Head of Policy and Advocacy

Let’s wipe out wet wipes from our beaches and seas. As well as this ban we need everyone to support a move to more reusable options and to make sure they only flush the '3 P's' down the loo - pee, poo and paper!"

Reflections on a decades-long campaign

As the ban on single-use plastic wet wipes is announced, we reflect on the decades-long journey we've undertaken to safeguard the health of our ocean.

In the UK alone, a staggering 11 billion wet wipes are used annually, with approximately 90% of them containing plastic. This extensive usage not only pollutes our beaches but also contributes to 93% of sewer blockages across the country.

Once wet wipes enter our sewage system, they persist for long periods of time and break down into microplastics which wreak havoc on the marine environment.

When ingested by marine life, plastic debris can stop animals from feeding and have harmful effects on their digestive system, which hinders their growth, development, reproduction, and overall lifespan. Sadly, it is estimated that millions of marine animals die each year due to plastic.

For years, we've tirelessly advocated for a ban on single-use plastic wet wipes. A journey marked by dedication and persistence.

Using vital data collected by volunteers for Beachwatch on the prevalence of wet wipes across UK beaches, we prompted major UK retailers to eliminate plastic from their own-brand wet wipes, as well as supporting the wet wipe bill introduced by Fleur Anderson MP to the UK Government in 2021.

In Scotland, we supported Scottish Water in their Nature Calls Campaign, and submitted evidence in the single-use plastic consultation, marine litter strategy and the circular economy bill. We also submitted evidence to the Welsh government on the impact of wet wipes in the marine environment.

When the UK-wide consultation on banning plastic wet wipes launched last October, we made our case for the ban – and we’re delighted to see that our asks have been answered.

But this isn’t just a win for us, this is a win for our incredible volunteers and members who responded to the UK Governments consultation. And most importantly, it’s a win for our ocean!