Most, however, are made from polyester, a plastic that takes years to degrade – and then releases millions of tiny fibres into the environment.
The announcement comes days after a study found piles of flushed wet wipes are changing the shape of the River Thames.
It comes as the United Kingdom government proposed a new ban on certain single-use plastics in a bid to reduce plastic waste last month.
A Defra statement said: ‘As part of our 25-year environment plan we have pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, and that includes single-use products that include plastic such as wet wipes’.
The British government said that household wet wipes will be “eliminated” in the United Kingdom as part of Michael Gove’s crackdown on single use plastic.
An in-depth investigation of sewer blockages by Water UK, an organisation that represents major water and wastewater service providers, found that wet wipes flushed down toilets were the biggest culprit for blockages. “The Thames riverbed is changing”.
The wet-wipe industry has flourished over the last decade with manufacturers offering an ever broader range of wipes, for sensitive skin, babies’ bottoms, removing make-up, applying insect repellent, deodorant or sunscreen. “It looks natural but when you get close you can see that these clumps are composed of wet wipes mixed with twigs and mud”.
Water UK told the BBC that wet wipes “are behind 93% of blockages in UK sewers, a key element of the infamous giant obstacles known as fatbergs”, costing ratepayers in the region of £100m per year.
“We want people to realise that this is not just happening on the Thames, but on rivers and canals all round the country”, said Downer.
Earlier in January, environmentalists said the new measures do not go far enough, arguing that the most glaring omission in May’s scheme was the lack of support for deposit return schemes that pay consumers to return plastic bottles after use and are common in many parts of the world including Denmark, Germany and Australia.