Disposable wet wipes are causing serious environmental damage and plans are underway to make users more aware of this.
A recent report from Coastwatch in Ireland reported "long ropes" of wet wipes ending up on Irish coastlines, while a recent UK investigation found ‘flushable’ wet wipes were responsible for 93% of blockages in the country’s sewers.
With wet wipes popular with consumers right across the EU, Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune said that measures are being taken at European level to increase knowledge of the potential for harm.
“The European Commission told me it was aware of the problems posed by plastic wet wipes that are incorrectly disposed of by consumers flushing them down into the sewage systems,” she said. “One of the results of such behaviour is the accumulation of marine plastic litter, with all its negative environmental and health-related consequences.”
She said that beaches and coastlines around Cork must be protected.
“A major investigation in the UK has found that wet wipes being sold as ‘flushable’ are causing extreme damage to the environment,” she said. “Many of these products under investigation are also on sale in Ireland and across all Member States.
“The UK investigation found that wet wipes don’t break down and are causing blockages to sewers.”
She said some manufacturers have made efforts to improve the packaging of non-flushable wipes and highlighting that people should not flush them.
“However some packaging still states that wipes as ‘flushable” and this has to be addressed,” she added. “It is very important that people do not flush wet wipes.
“I would really urge people to think carefully about how they dispose of wet wipes as they are clogging up sewers and damaging the marine environment.”
Irish Water reports that thousands of blockages a year are caused caused by wet wipes and other sanitary products, at a cost of millions.
They urge people to remember that only the 3 P’s - pee, poo and toilet paper, are to be flushed down the toilet. Everything else goes in the bin, even wipes that claim to be flushable.