London MPs from three different political parties are backing efforts to ban the use of plastic in the manufacture of wet-wipes, which prevents them biodegrading and is causing them to clog sewers and pollute the River Thames.
Both Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney and Conservative Andrew Rosindell today affirmed their support for Labour’s Fleur Anderson, who has introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill on the issue in the House of Commons.
Speaking on today’s Politics London programme, Rosindell, the MP for Romford, said he fully supports what Anderson is trying to do and described “the principle she is fighting for” as “completely correct”. He urged the government to “be clear about this [problem] because it’s doing so much environmental damage”.
Olney, who represents Richmond Park, said “I don’t know why the government won’t take action” over the problem, which is resulting in large clumps of wet wipes, often entangled with other things, to gather in heaps at the edge of the water. She stressed that wet-wipes made without plastic are on the market, “but not widely available, so it’s difficult for consumers to choose them”. A ban would spare people having to make that decision, she argued.
In a film report from the Thames shore at Battersea, Anderson, the MP for Putney, displayed a length of rope encrusted with wet-wipes, which enter the river when sewers overflow, depositing millions of tonnes of sewage into its waters every year. The film also reported that 30 tonnes of wet-wipes make their way through the system to the sewerage treatment centre at Beckton every year.
Anderson said the river bed is “covered with them”, damaging wildlife, and campaign group Thames21 claims the large mounds of wet-wipes are altering the Thames foreshore, affecting the river’s flow. They have urged manufacturers to stop describing wet-wipes made with plastic as flushable.
It is unusual for a Ten Minute Rule Bill, a form of Private Members Bill, to complete the passage into law, as the government usually opposes them in the later stages of their progress through Parliament. However, they can be effective in raising awareness of their cause.
Image from Politics London. Watch the report and discussion from 22 minutes in on BBC iPlayer (available for 29 days).
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