“Alarming quantities” of wet wipes washing up on Galway Bay prompts call for restrictions on sale of plastics

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The sale of single-use plastics must be restricted as ‘alarming quantities’ of wet wipes are being washed up on the shores of Galway Bay.

That’s according to Mairsíl Claffey of the Galway County Public Participation Network, who said that the Covid response is exacerbating this already hazardous source of plastic pollution.

In an open letter issued to Minister Eamon Ryan yesterday, the network called for restrictions on the sale of single-use plastics, and highlighted the burden single-use plastics present to waste management processes and environment.

“Alarming quantities of wet wipes”

Quoting research conducted by Dr Liam Morrison and his team at the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, Claffey noted that the use of wet wipes particularly exacerbates this situation with ‘alarming quantities’ of wipes washing up on the shores of Galway bay.

This, she said, is due to the inability of sewage treatment to break down wet wipes containing plastic, and the fact these wipes are not biodegradable.

“Galway enjoys a stellar reputation as a tourist destination and our beautiful beaches are integral to that,” the letter reads.

“The Galway community depends on the reputation and quality, of our waters and shoreline, for tourism, oyster harvesting, sea swimming and many other recreational and business endeavors.

“Members of the Galway public want to see the sale of plastic containing wet wipes restricted in order to protect their right to live in an environment which is adequate for personal health and well being.”

The letter also refers to the provisions in European legislation to reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment which Ireland must implement.

Currently, wet wipes are not included in the list of products mentioned in this Directive.

The Galway Co PPN suggests that plastic-containing wet wipes be treated in the same way as those single use plastic products, covered in the legislation, with their sale restricted.

By issuing the letter, the Green Recovery Working Group, backed by the Galway County PPN, hope to raise awareness of the need to take urgent action to curtail the harmful impact of non-biodegradable wet wipes, as well as action against the ‘erroneous labelling’ of wipes as ‘flushable’.