Why wet wipes are ruining UK beaches and coastal waters
Cleansing wet wipes are causing havoc on beaches and in coastal waters of the UK it has been revealed this week.
Sailors, surfers, and anyone who enjoys our coastal waters for recreation will be disappointed to learn that the number of wet wipes washing up on UK beaches increased by more than 50% last year, according to the Marine Conservation Society.
The organization is urging people to stop flushing them down their toilets as they do not fully bio-degrade. As part of the MCS’s wider beach clean campaign boat owners and fishermen are also being educated to manage their waste better while at sea.
The charity is calling for a national marine litter action plan to address the main sources of rubbish in the UK's seas, from the public, fishing, shipping and sewage-related debris.
Huge rise in wet wipes washed up on UK beaches
The results of Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) annual beach cleanup, just released, found the number of wet wipes more than doubled between 2013 and 2014. To the horror of coastal boaters and watersports fans, it was found that on average 35 of the non-biodegradable cleaning cloths were found for every kilometre of beach. This is up from 23 of the little square cloths per kilometre in 2013.
MCS beachwatch officer Charlotte Coombes said the UK's sewers were not built to cope with wet wipes - which have also been causing a problem elsewhere in the world.
''When flushed they don't disintegrate like toilet paper, and they typically contain plastic so once they reach the sea, they last for a very long time. That's when we find sewage-related debris, including wet wipes, on the beach,'' she said.
Measures to tackle the problem could include a national deposit scheme to pay people for returning drinks bottles and cans and better recycling or disposal facilities for fishermen.
Which beaches in the UK have the most rubbish?
According to the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean Report:
• In Wales, two and a half times more litter was collected per kilometre of beach than the national average, an increase of 46% on 2013 to its highest level in 21 years of the annual survey.
• England saw the density of rubbish rise by 10% to new highs.
• Beaches in the South West had the highest amounts of rubbish in England
• Litter levels dropped on both the east and west coasts of northern England.
• There was an 8% fall in rubbish per kilometre of beach surveyed in Scotland.
• Litter levels appear to be declining in Northern Ireland.
The accumulation of wet wipes could be partly due to the severe rainfall during the 2013-14 winter. Choked sewers may have flooded more rubbish (including wet wipes) than usual into rivers, which ended up on beaches.
Coombes said there was a long-term increase in the number of cloths ending up in the environment and on beaches in particular.
Coombes said: “This move towards convenience, the move towards items to use once and throw away, it’s much easier for people to do that. What we are doing is not just using a lot more resources we are creating a lot more litter that can end up in the environment.”
Wet wipes are notorious for their impact on sewer systems, but the impact on the coastal ecosystems is also a concern.
You can get involved with local beachcleans all year round.
Check out www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch for more details.