In a revolutionary move, the health shop retailer have announced they will no longer buy, sell or produce wet-wipes as part of its ‘Clean and Conscious’ pledge – and they’re calling for other major retailers to do the same. Instead, wet-wipes will replaced by environmentally friendly and sustainable alternatives by end of September 2019.
The move comes as more shops recognise their ethical and environmental responsibilities. According to the EarthWatch Institute and Plastic Oceans UK, 9.3million wipes are still flushed down toilets in the UK every single day, making their way to the world’s oceans, rivers and sewage systems, damaging marine life and creating huge costs for consumers from sewer blockages.
These popular household and beauty products are blamed for 80 per cent of blockages in our sewers, costing an estimated £100 million a year to clear, in the UK alone. Internationally, the problem is much bigger with wet wipe demand growing to $13.5 billion in 2018.
While there are some new types of biodegradable wipes that are described as flushable and compostable, both Friends of the Earth and Water UK, the industry body, warn that these won’t degrade quickly enough to avoid being a menace down drains or in our rivers.
The vast majority of wet-wipes are not biodegradable, so those that do escape sewage filters have an even greater environmental impact, finishing their journey in oceans or washing up on beaches. Traditional wet-wipes are made of polyester and contain millions of chemical microfibres. Once in water, these fibres are released and cause death and destruction to a host of marine species.
Holland & Barrett believes that as there are effective and sustainable alternatives to non-biodegradable wet-wipes, it would help safeguard marine life and put an end to costly sewer blockages if the Government reverted to its original decision to review and include wet wipes in its 2042 plastic elimination programme.
Joanne Cooke, head of beauty at Holland & Barrett, explained: “There is a growing awareness of how much our current throwaway culture is damaging our oceans, beaches and rivers. We want to encourage our customers to think about what they currently throw away and encourage them to swap to more sustainable alternatives. The quickest way for us all to make a positive impact on the world we live in is to choose to spend our money on more sustainable products.”
In recent months, the true extent of wet-wipes’ impact on water systems has only been further highlighted in the discovery of multiple ‘Fatbergs’; congealed masses, made up of predominantly (93%) wet-wipes, were found in sewage systems across the nation, with one in Devon taking more than eight weeks to remove.
Joanne Cooke added: “The impact of single-use plastic on the earth is very evident, and so moving forward we will look to make our beauty offering as clean and conscious as possible.
“Clean when it comes to ingredients. You won’t find parabens, SLS or micro plastics in any of the products that we sell, because there should be no compromise on the products you put on your skin, hair, face or body.
“And conscious, because we care about the world we live in. We are in the process of developing our beauty range to focus on recyclable & refillable and waterless products – we are making a commitment to buy into beauty that doesn’t cost the earth. We also make sure all of our palm oil is from sustainable, RSPO certified, sources.”
Here’s hoping other retailers follow suit!