Why We Should All Stop Using Wet Wipes Immediately

Photo: Erin Yamagata
Skincare experts have long advised us to steer clear of makeup wipes – they strip the skin and don't remove makeup thoroughly – but sometimes using them is unavoidable (after a big night, at a festival). And if you're a parent, baby wipes are likely a staple in your armoury against all manner of bodily fluids.
However, wipes are doing some serious damage to the environment, according to a new study. Water UK, which represents the country's main water and sewage companies, found that wipes make up a staggering 93% of the material blocking our sewers.
They're causing hundreds around 300,000 sewer blockages and costing us an eye-watering £100m each year, Water UK said – money that could otherwise go towards reducing our water bills or improving services.
Rae Stewart, Water UK's director of corporate affairs, said the findings highlight that we can all do something about the problem of blocked sewers. Simply put, we need to either stop putting them down the loo or refrain from using them completely.
He said: “There are things that water companies can do, such as improve education about what should and shouldn’t be flushed. There are things manufacturers can do, such as make labelling clearer on non-flushable products. And, of course, there are things individuals can do – which is bin the wipes rather than flush them.”
There's now even a campaign to remind people to only flush "the three Ps: pee, paper and poo." A useful, if grim, reminder of how to properly dispose of waste. Natalie Fee, from plastic pollution group City to Sea, which is behind the initiative, urged wipe manufactures to list plastic more prominently on their ingredients lists as it would make people less likely to flush them.
Remember when a giant fatberg the length of two football pitches was found blocking east London's sewage system earlier this year? At the time, many remarked on the sheer number of wipes, nappies and sanitary products that could be spotted among the congealed mass of fat.
If you're an avid makeup-wipe user and are looking to cut down, you could do a lot worse than cleansing the old-fashioned way, with a muslin cloth. Liz Earle's Hot Cloth Cleanser, Cleanse & Polish, is one of the most-lauded products on the market and a good place to start.
Using micellar water and biodegradable cotton pads is another way to make your bedtime beauty routine more environmentally friendly. Or you could can simply invest in some eco-friendly wipes (Yes To wipes are made with compostable fabric and cost about £3). The most high-end ones may cost a bit more, but at least the environmental brownie points will help you sleep better at night.
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