UK's Pledge to Ban Single-Use Plastics Includes Wet Wipes
In continued efforts to clamp down on plastic waste, British lawmakers are planning to ban wet wipes in the UK.
Although these "flushable" towelettes are convenient to use, they wreak havoc on the environment. That's because these sheets can contain non-biodegradable materials such as polyester and polypropylene.
"As part of our 25-year environment plan we have pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, and that includes single-use products that include plastic such as wet wipes," the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told MailOnline in a statement.
Wet wipes are used for cleaning up after babies, removing makeup and have become mainstays in bathrooms around the world. Industry analysts forecast the multibillion-dollar global wet tissue and wipe market to grow 7 percent annually.
However, many wet wipes are mistakenly flushed down the toilet after use. Since they do not break down, they clump and congeal with cooking grease and other discarded items, and as a result, clog the world's sewer systems. These so-called "fatbergs" are not only revolting, they clog and break pipelines, and are difficult and costly to remove. New York City officials told The New York Times that the city has spent more than $18 million from 2010-2015 on wipe-related equipment problems.
As The Guardian reported last week, wet wipe pollution has changed the shape of Britain's rivers. Thames 21, a London-based cleanup group, retrieved 5,453 wet wipes in an area next to the Thames the size of half a tennis court.
Last year, one of the largest-ever fatbergs was found in east London. It weighed 130 metric tons—the same as 11 double decker buses—and was more than twice the length of two football pitches.
Thames Water, Greater London's water utility, said it spends around £1 million a month clearing blockages from its sewers caused by items such as fat, wipes, diapers, cotton buds, sanitary products and condoms.
"That's an average of three fat related blockages and 4.8 blockages caused by items like wet wipes every hour," the utility noted.
The UK has taken major steps to fight plastic pollution in recent years, from banning microbeads to restricting plastic bag use. Last month, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced her government is earmarking £61.4 million towards cleaning the world's oceans of plastics.
UK Pledges £61.4 Million to Fight Ocean Plastics https://t.co/AOFsks2k59 @savingoceans @PlasticPollutes— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523930104.0
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One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.
Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.
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By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for 2020, the second-warmest year the globe has seen since record-keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA. Record-high annual temperatures over land and ocean surfaces were measured across parts of Europe, Asia, southern North America, South America, and across parts of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. No land or ocean areas were record cold for the year. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Figure 2. Total ocean heat content (OHC) in the top 2000 meters from 1958-2020. Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Sea surface temperature were approximately one degree Celsius below average over the past month, characteristic of moderate La Niña conditions. Tropical Tidbits
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