Britain’s environmental initiative could ban wet wipes

May 8 (UPI) — Unless makers of wet wipes eliminate plastic from the product, they won’t be able to sell them in Britain in the future, the country’s government said.

Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or DERFA, said the effort is part of Britain’s 25-year environment plan to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste.

The wipes contain non-biodegradable plastic and account for 93 percent of sewer blockages in Britain, which in turn sends contents of drains and toilets to rivers and on beaches.

“That’s very unpleasant and it causes pollution that kills fish and other wildlife — derailing years of improvements by local people, the Environment Agency and water companies,” Helen Wakeham, deputy director of water quality for Environment Agency, explained in a blog post.

The Environment Agency on Monday tweeted a reminder that flushing wipes is not a way to dispose of them. “It’s environmental littering,” it said.

“We are continuing to work with manufacturers and retailers of wet wipes to make sure labelling on packaging is clear and people know how to dispose of them properly — and we support the industry’s efforts to make their customers aware of this important issue,” a DEFRA spokesperson said.

In January, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to eliminate all “avoidable plastic waste” by 2042. Last month, the British government announced a ban on the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs.

In March, the British government vowed to introduce a deposit return for bottles and cans. A tax on single-use coffee cups is also in the works. Earlier this year, the country banned the use of microbeads found in products like facial scrubs and toothpaste, and a seven-cent plastic bag charge was introduced to supermarkets in 2015.