Half of 'flushable' wet wipes contain microplastic pollutants

Half of wet wipes found in a study of Irish waters were branded as 'flushable' but actually contained microplastic pollutants.
Half of 'flushable' wet wipes contain microplastic pollutants
File photo.
File photo.

Half of wet wipes found in a study of Irish waters were branded as 'flushable' but actually contained microplastic pollutants.

The survey, co-authored by NUI Galway, carried out research into white fibre pollutants in the waters around three treatment plants in Galway city, Bell Harbour in Clare and Bellacragher in Mayo.

The findings are part of a study co-authored by the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway and published in the international journal of Water Research.

Project lead, Dr.Liam Morrison from NUIG, says the marketing of wet wipes needs to policed better.

"Many of these wipes that are labelled as 'flushable', you don't find on the labelling or the packaging anything that states that they contain microplastic fibres," he said.

"There is a lack of regulation at the moment around labelling and packaging, however there are industry guidelines that the logo must be clearly demonstrated on the package to indicate whether they should be flushed or not flushed."

Dr Morrison says the Covid-19 crisis may have made the situation worse.

"Throughout the pandemic we would definitely have seen an increased use of disinfectant and sanitary wipes," he said.

"When it comes back to people inappropriately flushing these in the toilets, they are going to end up in our water treatment facilities and they are going to end up on our beaches where they will fragment and break down into white microplastic fibres."

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