The pharmacy chain, which sold more than 800 million wet wipes in the last year, said it would replace plastic-based wipes with plant-based biodegradable alternatives. The move follows Boots reformulating its own-brand wipe ranges to remove plastic.
A large proportion of the 11 billion wet wipes used in the UK every year still contain some form of plastic, according to the Marine Conservation Society, and evidence suggests they are the cause of more than nine in 10 blockages in UK sewers.
Boots is one of the biggest sellers of wet wipes in the UK, with more than 140 different lines stocked across skincare, baby, tissue and healthcare categories.
Steve Ager, chief customer and commercial officer at Boots UK, said: “Our customers are more aware than ever before of their impact on the environment, and they are actively looking to brands and retailers to help them lead more sustainable lives.
“We removed plastics from our own brand and No7 wet wipe ranges in 2021, and now we are calling on other brands and retailers across the UK to follow suit in eliminating all plastic-based wet wipes.
“We all have a responsibility to protect our planet. By joining forces to inspire more positive action, we can collectively make a big difference.”
Marine Conservation Society chief executive Sandy Luk said: “It’s a fantastic step in the right direction for retailers, like Boots, to remove plastic from their own brand wet wipes and ask that all brands they stock do the same.
“Our volunteers found nearly 6,000 wet wipes during the Great British Beach Clean in September 2021, which is an average of 12-and-a-half wet wipes for every 100 metres of beach surveyed.
“The fact we’re still finding so many wet wipes on beaches shows that we need to remove plastic from wet wipes and move toward reusable options wherever possible, and it’s great that Boots are making commitments to this.”
Boots will follow in the footsteps of Tesco which stopped selling baby wipes containing plastic as part of the retailer’s aim to cut down on plastic consumption. The supermarket made its own-brand wipes plastic-free two years ago.
The ban on the use of wet wipes containing plastic has already been discussed in parliament. In November 2021, Labour MP Fleur Anderson proposed a new bill that would prohibit the manufacturing and sale of wet wipes containing plastic.
Labour MP proposes banning wet wipes containing plastic
She told parliament: “Just one sewage station in east London removes 30 tonnes of wet wipes every day.
“In 2019, 23,000 wet wipes were counted and removed from a single stretch of the Thames foreshore in just two hours. That is even more terrifying when you consider that our reliance on wet wipes is growing day by day.
“It isn’t just causing environmental damage and polluting our marine environments, it is also costing water companies around £100m per year to clear 300,000 blockages. That is money that then ends up on our water bills each month.”
The plastics in the wet wipes turn into microplastics when broken down, which can contaminate water and food supplies. They can also be ingested by fish and cause damage to ecosystems.
A Water UK study revealed that 75 per cent of flounder – a type of fish – in the Thames had plastics in their stomachs which largely came from wet wipes.
During the pandemic, the use of wet wipes dramatically increased, with antibacterial wet wipes used to clean surfaces and hands. Britons spend over £500m on the products and the industry has grown 30 per cent since 2014.