I watched episode 2 of War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita last night and learned quite a few things! One that stood out was that 90% of wet wipes contain plastic which means that they will not break down. Many of them are flushed down the toilet which means they cause a lot of blockages and sewerage works have to pull them out and send them to landfill. Every year, 500 tonnes of wet wipes are removed from the Sydney water network alone. If they manage to get into our waterways they may be consumed by marine life or pollute our oceans.
We are all gradually becoming more aware of single use plastics and trying to avoid using them where possible. Think of wet wipes as a single use plastic. They are not flushable (even if labelling says they are - this is currently undergoing review and hopefully a legislation change). Even if something is labelled as flushable, biodegradable or dispersable doesn't mean it will break down. The industry standards for these terms are written by the industry that manufacture the products, not an independent body. Choice has written an interesting article about this and conducted some testing of wipes labelled as flushable:
Ultimately the take away message is that wet wipes will not break down, they will either cause pipe blockages, end up in landfill or in our waterways. And of course I haven't even gone into the chemicals that they are soaked in!
Here are some simple guidelines to help us reduce the financial, environmental and health cost of wet wipes:
1. Think of wet wipes as a single use plastic.
2. If you have to use wet wipes, dispose of them in a bin instead of flushing them.
3. Swap cleaning wet wipes for simple, cheap homemade household cleaners e.g. 20% white vinegar + 80% water in a spray bottle. See this short video for another simple recipe: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07d5ywn
4. Swap baby wipes for washable wipes see www.cheekywipes.com.au for some ideas
5. Swap face cleaning or make-up removal wipes for a flannel.
Happy healthy cleaning!
p.s. If you want to watch the episode it's available on Foxtel on demand and on BBC iPlayer if you have the VPN thingy - it's a bit beyond my technical capabilities but hubby says it works!