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Wet wipes now most common beach litter as EU warns on proper disposal


A blockage of wet wipes pulled from a sewer

A blockage of wet wipes pulled from a sewer

A blockage of wet wipes pulled from a sewer

Wet wipes have been identified as one of the most commonly found items of rubbish on beaches, prompting an information campaign on proper disposal.

They are also responsible for blocking thousands of Irish sewers a year.

The European Commission identified wet wipes as one of the 10 single-use plastic items most frequently found on European coastal beaches.

It has put forward proposals for labels on packaging to make consumers aware of what improper disposal can do to the environment.

The commission also proposed a scheme that would see wet wipes producers contribute financially to the costs of fighting littering and awareness raising measures.

Irish MEP Deirdre Clune welcomed the proposals and said even flushable wipes damaged the environment.

"A major investigation in the UK has found that wet wipes being sold as 'flushable' are causing extreme damage to the environment," she said.

"Many of these products under investigation are also on sale in Ireland and across all member states."

A 2018 Coastwatch Survey identified a rise in the number of the wipes on beaches in Ireland.

While there are no Government plans to ban the plastic tissues, it will closely follow EU proposals.

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"Our focus for wet wipes is to work with manufacturers and water companies to develop a product that does not contain plastic and can be safely flushed," a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said.

For the first nine months of last year, Irish Water estimates that it removed almost 4,700 blockages caused by unflushable items, such as wet wipes, from the sewerage network.

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