The UK Government is introducing a ban on the sale and supply of wet wipes containing plastic, following a public consultation where 95% of respondents supported the proposal.  

The ban is a collaborative effort by all four UK nations, with regulations to be introduced by the end of 2024 and the ban taking effect 18 months later. 

The new law will prohibit the selling of wet wipes containing plastic in England, before being rolled out to cover the rest of the UK later in the year.

Wet wipes with plastic components are known to persist in the environment for many years, posing a threat to wildlife and contributing to unsightly litter and microplastic pollution.  

In England, the ban will be enforced principally through civil sanctions set out in regulations using powers of the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 and in Wales, the regulations will be enforced through either criminal sanctions or civil sanctions. 

In Scotland, the ban will be enforced by Trading Standards and Local Authorities while enforcement plans are ongoing due to the recent return of the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

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The transition period of 18 months will give businesses time to adapt, and even though the ban does not extend to the manufacture of these products, all UK governments are encouraging manufacturers to shift towards plastic-free wet wipes. 

This period is intended to address the economic impacts of the ban, including job losses, and prevent excess stocks of wet wipes from being incinerated. 

Exemptions will be made for essential uses such as for medical disinfectant purposes, where no viable alternatives exist.  

Scottish Government Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said: “I am delighted to confirm today that the Scottish Government will ban wet wipes containing plastic. These items are a problematic source of marine litter and are a threat to the health of our environment and wildlife.  

“This ban delivers on an important commitment made in our Marine Litter Strategy and builds on previous actions to ban unnecessary single-use plastic items such as plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic straws and cutlery.  

“These policies are all proof of the progress Scotland is making toward protecting our environment, and all contribute to our journey toward a circular economy.”