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Help stop the scourge of the wet wipes

New Brighton's 'New Brighteners' clean-up group is highlighting the increasing amounts of wet wipes on local beaches after one volunteer alone picked up around 100 wet wipes in just two days, 52 in just one evening's beach clean.

The New Brighteners have been logging the number of wet wipes collected as part of their support for Keep Britain Tidy's #binit4beaches campaign.

The campaign has been talking to people over the summer holidays about the importance of only flushing the 3P’s down the toilet; pee, poo and (toilet) paper and always putting wet wipes in the bin.  As part of one litter pick in August, of the 45 wet-wipes retrieved, they estimate that only six had been washed-ups, leaving 39 as having been discarded directly on to the beach.

Litter bins and bulk litter bins are available near Fort Perch Rock where the bulk of the wipes were collected, and they are available throughout the resort, but people are still leaving wet wipes on the beach, perhaps following manufacturers' claims that the wipes are biodegradable.

However, both the Marine Conservation Society and  Keep Britain Tidy Keep Britain Tidy say that wipes don’t disintegrate like toilet paper, and last for a very long time in the sea, so are calling for a chance in product labelling to reflect that.

According to the latest data collected by the Marine Conservation Society, the numbers of wet wipes found on beaches increased by over 50% in a single year. Its Beachwatch Officer, Charlotte Coombes, says the problem is that wipes, often described as flushable, are being put down the loo instead of thrown in the bin.

“Our sewerage systems weren’t built to cope with wet wipes. 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. They can cause blockages in our sewers, and then, everything else that has been flushed down the loo can either back up into people’s homes, or overflow into rivers and seas. Overflows also happen during excessive rainfall, or if the plumbing hasn’t been connected up properly meaning the wrong pipes are heading straight to the sea. That’s when we find Sewage Related Debris, including wet wipes, on the beach.”

The problem has already been highlighted by a number of UK water companies. Research for United Utilities in the North West showed 1 in 10 households have had blocked toilets and drains due to baby wipes, make-up wipes and other non-flushables going down the loo. It’s not just a UK problem - in Denver, Colorado, 'fatbergs' of food mixed with wet wipes and cooking oil have blocked thousands of miles of pipework under the streets.   

The message from Wirral is - as with all rubbish - dispose of it in a litter bin or take your litter home. You can also play your part in Keep Britain Tidy's #binit4beaches campaign by only flushing the 3P’s down the toilet; pee, poo and (toilet) paper and always putting wet wipes in the bin.