Fleur Anderson MP, Shadow Paymaster General, has been campaigning for a ban on plastics in wet wipes for the past year. The bill was set to be read in Parliament on January 20th, however the second reading was rescheduled as the bill was too far down the order paper. Despite gaining support from the public, the bill has yet to receive government support.
“I’m really frustrated about that. I don’t think there needs to be any more research to find out the damage that plastic in wet wipes is doing in our marine environment and the sewers up and down the country as well.” Anderson stated regarding the government’s decision to further research the issue instead of implementing a ban. Last weekend, the government announced a ban on plastic trays, plates, and cutlery, but disappointingly did not include a ban on plastic in wet wipes. Instead, they announced further research into the issue. Anderson believes that there is already enough evidence to show the damage that plastic in wet wipes is causing to marine environments and sewers in the country.
Indeed, there has certainly been a great deal of progress over the last year, since Anderson first introduced her Private Member’s Bill. Last year, she sat down with Greenpeace campaigner, Megan Randles to discuss this issue.
Anderson’s passion for the environment began at a young age, and she has been an environment campaigner since the age of 12. She is particularly concerned about plastic, as it is made from fossil fuels and its burning or burying continues to harm the environment. In the UK alone, 100 billion pieces of plastic are used by households every year, with five million tons of plastic not being recycled.
“Wet wipes are a significant contributor to this problem, as they are often made with plastic, which gives them strength but also means they do not break down. I am determined to phase out the use of plastic in wet wipes and find alternatives that do not harm the environment.” Anderson stated.
For constituents who want to reduce their use of plastic but find it difficult to do so, Anderson advises reducing their use of plastic products, looking for products that do not contain plastic, and reusing and recycling whenever possible. She points to companies such as Tesco and Boots who have already committed to producing wet wipes that do not contain plastic.
Parliamentary colleagues have shown huge support for Anderson’s bill, with cross-party support for the idea that wet wipes cause damage to the environment and need to be changed. However, despite verbal support from ministers, there has been little action on the issue.
Labour’s Leadership on the Issue
“In terms of leadership on the issue, Labour can continue to push for action on plastic reduction and the climate emergency. I call on the government to take the climate emergency seriously and to take more decisive action on plastic reduction, specifically phasing out the use of plastic in wet wipes.” Anderson stated.
She also encourages the public to continue to push for change and make conscious choices when it comes to plastic use. With the government’s recent decision to conduct more research, Anderson is determined to keep pushing for a ban on plastic in wet wipes and for more action to be taken on plastic reduction. She believes that it is crucial for the government to take the climate emergency seriously and to take more decisive action on plastic reduction. The public also has a role to play in this movement by making conscious choices when it comes to plastic use and supporting companies that are committed to reducing plastic usage.
The Government’s stance on this issue seems thoroughly confusing. With verbal support from Ministers, and commitments to ban plastics from a range of other everyday items, the decision to “undertake more research” on this issue is counter intuitive to say the least.
With the Labour party looking to take the mantle of environmental action, banning the use of plastic in wet wipes is a quick, easy and effective environmental win for the government. And, as it stares down yet another series of scandals, it could do with plucking some low-hanging fruit at the moment.