A word very familiar to parents of small kids is wipes, from the moment the baby is born and has that anticipated and messy first poo (this also spells the end of what is considered acceptable dinner conversation) to teaching a heavily independent toddler to wipe when toilet training. You cannot leave the house without them, you add them in to weekly shop, you have them in the nappy bag, Nanny’s house, creche, the car, literally everywhere.
Wipes for cleaning dirty bums, grubby faces, sticky hands, messy tables, not all the same wipe of course. This convenience item can be a God send for exhausted parents, but convenience as we know comes with a cost. There are of course many alternatives to wipes such as simply soap, water and a cloth but as Mum of 3 I certainly reach for the wipes more often than I should.
You might think what is the issue with one little wipe? Well wipes contain a small proportion of plastic which is one issue, but the other is the way people sometimes dispose of them. Wipes seem like a wet toilet tissue, but they do not break down, even if the label states they are flushable. They are fit for purpose which is to be a strong, wet substance for cleaning, people or surfaces. In Clean Coasts we often find wipes as marine litter washed up on our beautiful beaches and it looks like they are fresh out of a packet. A wipe found on the beach may have made a journey from a toilet flush, through the sewage network, and end up in your local lake, river, the ocean before finally being washed up by the tide. This can happen due to blockages along the wastewater network resulting in overflows to your local environment. I am not saying to ditch the wipes, ideally reduce their use but simply when you are finished using them throw them in the bin and never flush them down the toilet.
Think before you flush
As part of the Think Before You Flush public awareness campaign operated by Clean Coasts in partnership with Irish Water a simple rule is to only flush the 3P’s, pee, poo and paper down the toilet, all other waste goes in the bin.