We're flushing away or binning an astonishing 11 billion wet wipes every year which can take up to 100 years to biodegrade. BusinessWaste.co.uk, waste management specialists, are concerned about the volume of waste being created by the number of makeup wipes and says that women and men across their country need to change their ways.
“Makeup wipes are the quickest and cheapest way to remove makeup on the market, but this doesn’t mean they’re the best option for the environment,” says Mark Hall, company spokesman. “But as global sales of all wet wipes are set to hit £16 billion by 2021*, it’s time to scrub away our nations unhealthy habits of using makeup wipes,” he says.
Using makeup wipes is bad for the environment, but because they’re an incredibly convenient way to remove makeup, it’s easy to convince yourself that one wipe a day won’t cause too much damage. Millions of consumers rely on makeup wipes as they promise to wash away the day in seconds using just one product, making them cost effective and a low maintenance part of their daily routines.
But despite the plush cotton feel makeup wipes have on your face, they actually contain a mix of plastic fibres such as polyester and polypropylene which prevent them from biodegrading. BusinessWaste.co.uk warns that they break down into micro-plastics and smaller fibres which will end up polluting the oceans and entering the food chain.
“With such a high number of wipes being used, there’s a lot of single-use plastic coming into the world,” says spokesperson Mark Hall. “The only way to prevent this happening is to stop using them.”
To add to the damage, makeup wipes and other wet wipes are not recyclable, meaning that the only way they can be properly disposed of is to put them into your rubbish bin. “For heavens sake do not flush makeup wipes down the toilet,” warns Mark Hall, “you’ll only break your toilet and block up the sewers.
"You don’t want poo flooding your bathroom, do you? I know it’s hard to get hold of toilet paper at the moment, but this is not the answer.” With 9.3 million wet wipes being flushed down the loo every day, they account for a staggering 93% of all sewer blockages, and makeup wipes are a big contribution to this problem.
BusinessWaste.co.uk explain that flushing anything other than toilet paper down the loo could add to ‘fatbergs’ in the sewers, which are caused by a build-up of fat and non-biodegradable materials such as wet wipes, which can lead to sewers blocking or overflowing. Fortunately, several brands are leading the way, such as high street store Holland & Barrett pledging to remove all wet wipes from their stores, and brand Huggies aiming to remove all plastics from their wipes in the next five years.
“Thank god people are taking action, otherwise our entire planet is going to be covered in a layer of makeup wipes,” says Hall, “imagine a squishy wet wipe mush underfoot everywhere you go. Yuck.”
With many people knowing that makeup wipes are bad news for the environment, alternative ways to remove makeup are becoming increasingly popular, so why isn’t everyone is making the change?
“I’ll admit, I buy the cheap makeup wipes from the supermarket, but then I end up using 4 instead of 1,” says shopper Heidi in Lancaster. “But I still think it’s cheaper than whatever else is out there.” Makeup wipes can cost as little as a pound for a pack, whereas plastic free alternatives can cost ten times that, so it’s easy to see why people are finding it hard to make the switch.
A list of inexpensive alternatives to help people cut down on makeup wipe use.
· Try one of the many cleansers such as micellar water available on the market with a flannel, a bottle can last for ages, and the flannel is washable
· Invest in a washable makeup remover cloth which only needs to be run under a tap before use. It can be chucked in your washing machine when you’ve used it, which over time will be much cheaper than restocking on makeup wipes
· Use a gentle soap and some water and little bit of arm power
· Stop wearing makeup every day, saves on wipes and saves you money! This is the ideal lockdown solution
“Ultimately, we need to get people to realise that makeup wipes are a single-use plastic, like carrier bags and straws says Mark. “If people can take their own bags to the supermarket, then they can wipe out the wet wipe.”