'Plastic' wet wipes ban has majority public support

25 September 2020

  • A total of 84% support a ban on the production of wet wipes containing plastic
  • A ban would reduce number of blockages by a third, and reduce the cost dealing with them by around £3 million
  • Company is calling for a ban to help reduce the thousands of blockages caused by the products every year

Welsh Water has called on the Welsh Government to include wet wipes in a proposed single-use plastics ban amid strong public support for the move, new research has found.

A survey commissioned by the not-for-profit water company found that more than four-fifths of the public would support a ban on wet wipes containing plastic, which are the main cause of catastrophic sewer blockages which can flood homes.

A further 94% of respondents thought companies should be making wet wipes without plastic in them.

The findings come as the Welsh Government launched a consultation on a proposed ban on single-use plastics. While it is marked as a future consideration, it has not formally included wet wipes in the initial stage of the proposed regulations.

The survey also found that 60% of those asked said they should personally reduce the number of wet wipes they flush down the toilet, while more than nine out of 10 adults in Wales recognised that people should never flush wet wipes down the toilet.

Wet wipes poses a significant problem for Welsh Water - with the company tackling around 20,000 blockages a year, costing around £5 million, which could otherwise go to improve services or reduce customer bills.

The company estimates that a ban could help reduce the total number of blockages caused by wet wipes alone by around a third, and reduce the cost of tackling these by around £3 million.

Steve Wilson, Managing Director of Wastewater Services, said:

"We already know that a single wet wipe with plastic in it can cause a blockage in your sewer - and cause catastrophic flooding to your neighbourhood, home and property. 

"We know that our customers use wet wipes a lot because they're useful - particularly in homes with children - and we want these plastic wipes to be replaced with an alternative, sustainable biodegradable material. Wipes with plastic can cause huge damage to customers' homes and to the environment we value so much.

"A ban on plastic wipes would have a potentially huge effect on this issues that can devastate lives."

The Welsh Government consultation can be found here.