Godsend to parents, devoted by make up artists, the seemingly innocent wet wipe could be about to disappear from the shelves if new governmental plans come into effect.
The problem? It all comes down to plastic again, a common theme in the news at the moment as the world continues to wake up to the challenges – and opportunities – that plastic presents. The trouble with wet wipes is not only that they are single use, and are therefore used in vast quantities around the world, but that they contain a non-biodegradable plastic that simply does not break down.
This is not essentially any different from any other plastic, but because wet wipes are frequently flushed rather than binned, they build up in the sewer system in the UK at exponential rates, causing about 93% of the blockages that are processed every year.
The UK government is now attempting to put pressure on manufacturers to better package wet wipes to make it absolutely clear that they are not to be flushed, but also to invest in research and development to create wet wipes that do not use plastic as a core component.
Will this really solve the problem?
As always with these types of issues, yes and no. As Jeremy Freedman, the Managing Director of Guardpack – a wet wipes manufacturer – has argued, wet wipes in restaurants prevent the use of huge amounts of water, although he is hardly an unbiased observer.
However, it is true that simply removing plastic from our lives completely is not the answer. Here at OmniDynamics, we do not believe that plastic in itself is inherently bad, just that our dependency on it and our methods of disposing of it have much to be desired.
Whether it is wet wipes, plastic straws, or cotton buds, almost everyone has an opinion about what is ‘good’ or ‘necessary’ plastic, and what plastic we can and should learn to live without. What few people are considering is that plastic itself doesn’t have to be single use, even if it is single use in each particular form.
We are currently developing the first working prototype of the Re-Strooder, a machine that will enable people to take previously used plastic, and break it down into useable plastic pellets perfect for 3D printing. It takes plastic out of the waste cycle, and enables it to be created into something new and useful.
Just how many times a piece of plastic can be broken down and remade into something new will depend on the type of plastic that it is, but there are no limits to the imagination of those using a 3D printer who can take plastic pellets which had once been a plastic straw, plastic bottle, or plastic bag and create something completely different.
So is this goodbye to wet wipes?
Not really. Although Theresa May pledged in January 2018 that the UK would rid itself of all ‘avoidable plastic waste’ by 2042, few can agree exactly what plastic waste can be avoided, and how this can possibly be enforced. We predict that wet wipes may suffer a fall from social grace, but until a viable and cost-effective alternative is created, they aren’t going to be abandoned by those who depend on them.
If you want to be kept up to date with when the Re-Strooder will be ready for purchase, click here.