Wet wipes: is it harm or benefit?

    26 May 2021

    Today, we all probably have a hard time imagining our lives without such a convenient means of personal hygiene as wet wipes. And most of us don’t even think about whether they are harmful to the environment and human health. The answer is unequivocally yes.

    Wet wipes contain plastic, which means that they do not decompose, such as paper, but only contaminate sewers and landfills for many years. By the way, it takes as much as 100 years to decompose one wet wipe!

    Once you throw your napkin in the trash, it is likely to end up in rivers, seas and oceans and endanger the safe lives of the animals that live there.

    Wet wipes are made from a mixture of synthetic cellulose and plastic fibers. They’re impossible to compost and incredibly difficult to process. Scientists have not yet found an effective way, although according to the organization Water UK wipes account for 93% of the pollution in sewers.

    “Let’s do it” movement advises to remember that not only wet wipes are a threat, but also the packaging in which they are sold.

    So what to do?

    You can use special gels and liquids to wipe and disinfect your hands, handkerchiefs or pieces of various fabrics. Watch videos on the Internet about handmade napkins (based on paper handkerchiefs or fabrics). Do not forget about the most effective method like soap and water.

    Eco-friendly alternatives to wet wipes

    The use of wet wipes has become more popular, with a range of styles available including eye make-up removers, baby wipes and ‘toilet’ wipes. But incorrect labelling and marketing of wet wipes as ‘flushable’ has resulted in serious plumbing issues by contributing to ‘fatbergs’ – congealed lumps of fat, sanitary items, wet wipes and so on. Wet wipes don’t disintegrate like toilet paper when flushed. They typically contain plastic so, once they reach the sea, they last for a long time, causing havoc with marine life.

    Fatbergs in our sewers can easily be avoided if we dispose of items like wet wipes in our kerbside rubbish bin. That said, do you really need all of those wet wipes? Or could you use alternatives such as recycled toilet paper and face washers?

    What about ‘biodegradable’ wet wipes?

    Wet wipes do not degrade during a flush or break down by the time they reach the sewer infrastructure. When the wet wipes make their way into the ocean, they get ingested by sea creatures, such as turtles, who mistake them for jellyfish and eventually die. Even if you don’t flush your wet wipes, they end up in the landfill. A far better option is to avoid using wet wipes in the first place.

    What you can do about wet wipes

    Say no to wet wipes

    Do you really need all of those wet wipes or could you use alternatives such as recycled toilet paper and cloths?

    Sustainability Victoria advises to use recycled toilet paper instead.

    Support paper recycling and minimise landfill by using recycled toilet paper instead of falsely labelled ‘toilet wipes’. Unlike wet wipes, toilet paper disintegrates.

    Use cloth wipes

    Washable cloth baby-wipes are now readily available and offer a chemical free alternative to wet wipes. Alternatively, you can make your own, or use face washers, your choice of soap and essential oils.

    Keep not only your hands clean, but also the environment.

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