Selfridges bans single-use wet wipes over plastics concerns

Pictured: Face Halo's reusable wipes

The retailer completed the phase-out this week, replacing all single-use wipes with plastics content with a re-usable and recyclable alternative from luxury brands like Clinique and small brands such as Face Halo.

According to research conducted by the BBC for War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita, 11 billion wet wipes are sold in the UK each year across the health, beauty and cleaning sectors, generating £0.5bn for the economy. But 90% of these products contain some plastic content.

In a drive to ascertain its place in this issue, Selfridges recently surveyed 2,000 UK-based adult shoppers, finding that one in five use beauty wipes at least once a day. While 84% of respondents said that plastics were their top concern around the sustainability of the physical products they buy, less than one-fifth were aware that most single-use wipes contain plastics and can take 100 years or more to degrade in nature.

With this in mind- and given the retailer’s ongoing work on ocean conservation – Selfridges’ director of Sustainability Daniella Vega maintains that removing plastic-based wet wipes altogether was the right thing to do, while big brands begin the multi-year process of developing alternatives.

“Single-use beauty wipes have been a staple of many beauty drawers, but they are incredibly harmful to the environment,” Vega said.

“During a recent Selfridges team beach clean, we saw first-hand the impact they have on our waterways and beaches and we were even more motivated to remove them from our stores.”

In summer 2021, the EU’s new requirement for wet wipe makers to disclose their composition and to provide on-pack information regarding their environmental impact will come into force. This legislation will be applied to the UK regardless of what happens with Brexit. At present wet wipe companies are not currently required by either EU or UK to law to disclose the ingredients of the wipes themselves, only of the liquid used to coat them.

Plastics action

Elsewhere in its plastics strategy, Selfridges phased out microbeads globally ahead of the UK’s nationwide ban; has removed all straws from food halls, restaurants and concessions; has phased out plastic bottles for soft drinks and is promoting water bottle reuse through the #OneLess campaign.

Hosted by the Zoological Society of London, in partnership with Forum for the Future, The International Programme on the State of the Ocean and the Thames Estuary Partnership, #OneLess aims to cultivate a “fundamental change” in the way that the UK public consumes water, away from single-use plastic.

Selfridges’ most recent move on plastics came earlier this month, when the firm unveiled new compostable packaging for mince pies and Christmas cakes. The cellulose-based packaging will be added to further biscuit and cake ranges, which Selfridges sells year-round, in the coming months.

Sarah George

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