THE huge increase in wet wipes is building up plastic waste in rivers and even altering the shape of river spawning beds.

Charity Thames21 recently removed a record 23,000 wipes, filling 473 bin bags in just two hours, from the River Thames near Hammersmith Bridge in South West London.

Alice Hall, of Thames21, explained: “The growing wet wipe market is damaging our capital’s river, turning stretches of it into a Frankenstein foreshore, part plastic part natural.

“Our rivers are becoming plastic rubbish dumps: millions of wet wipes, which often contain plastic, being flushed down loos and then discharged into our rivers when the sewers can’t cope. We’ve seen the mounds growing very fast over the past few years.

“Three things need to happen: we all need to Bin Don’t Flush, no matter what it says on the packet; politicians need to ban inaccurate wet wipe labelling and we can all start choosing reusable alternatives where possible.”

Anglers’ reactions to Thames21 findings

Environmental campaigner and former barbel record holder Ray Walton said: “Plastics and baby wipes will be in all rivers in the UK that have water company sewage effluent dumped into them.

“These will turn into microplastics and will affect all fish and every creature along the food chain.

“The Environment Agency, Government and water companies have known about the problem for many years but never address or correct the problem, or even want to.

“If these wipes are building up on the river shoreline, they will be forming on the river bottom including spawning beds and just won’t rot away so will stay there,” fumed Ray.

And Matt Marlow, chairman of the River Anglers Conservation Group, said: “Wet wipes in rivers can be a nuisance when you are fishing.

“I often get them wrapped round my line especially when there is a flow on, but more than that they are clearly a menace to the environment.

“As most contain plastic, they can build up on the river bed. This will eventually break down into micro plastic. And, as we have seen in recent research, this can be absorbed by fish and even invertebrates.

“No one knows the long-term effects to river life.

“Companies should be forced to label their products clearly and we should all cut down on the use of those that aren’t genuinely biodegradable, and ensure we bin any we do use rather than flush them down the toilet,” Matt concluded.

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