Disposable Wet Wipes Causing Issues for Local Treatment Plants
With an increased desire for convenience and items that are easily disposed of, we may be doing more harm to the environment than we realize. This is especially true with one of the most commonly used products around our homes, the disposable wet wipe.
These pre-moistened towels offer a quick and easy way to clean our homes, our children and even ourselves, and as a bonus, many of these products are marketed as “flushable.”
The problem, however, is that once these wet wipes are flushed down the toilet, they do not simply disappear; they clog up our pipes and sewers, creating tons of harmful waste.
Because the wipes are usually made from a combination of plastics, wood pulp and cotton, they are difficult to break down, and can float in sewers and oceans for years.
A recent report by the Marine Conservation Society revealed that wet wipes have become the fastest-growing pollution on UK beaches, with volunteers picking them up along the coastline at a rate of 35 wipes per kilometer.
Not only that, but studies have shown that the chemicals in some wet wipes can cause serious skin allergies, including dermatitis and eczema.
Some baby wipes also contain an antimicrobial called bronopol, which can release low levels of formaldehyde as it breaks down. Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound that is known to cause eye and throat irritation, headaches and dizziness, and has been classified as a human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.
What Can We Do?
It may be easier and more convenient to use wet wipes around the home, but there are more eco-friendly alternatives you can try.
For simple cleaning tasks around the house, try a reusable microfiber cloth and water.
And if you have any applications for which you prefer disposable wipes, try using organic and biodegradable wipes that are truly flushable as well as hypoallergenic to make sure that they’re safe for your family AND the environment.
- Marine Conservation Society: Let’s Wipe Out Wet Wipes
- NYTimes – NY Sewer and Flushable Wet Wipes
- Daily Mail – Wet Wipes Destroying Planet
- NY Mag – Flushable Wet Wipes