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The makeup wipes problem

Millions of makeup wipes piled as high as the Eiffel Tower are going to landfill every day
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
The makeup wipes problem

Wet wipes can take up to 100 years to biodegrade – and we’re flushing away or binning an astonishing 11 billion of them every year.

The waste management specialists at are ‘concerned’ about the volume of waste being created by the number of makeup wipes, and say women and men across the country need to change their ways.

‘Makeup wipes are the quickest and cheapest way to remove makeup on the market, but this doesn’t mean they’re the best option for the environment’, says Mark Hall, company spokesman.

As global sales of all wet wipes are set to hit £16 billion by 2021, it’s time to scrub away our nation’s unhealthy habits of using makeup wipes.

Microplastics in wipes

We all know that using makeup wipes is bad for the environment, but because they’re an incredibly convenient way to remove makeup, it’s easy to convince yourself that one wipe a day won’t cause too much damage.

Millions of consumers rely on makeup wipes as they promise to wash away the day in seconds using just one product, making them a cost-effective and low-maintenance part of their daily routines.

But despite the plush cotton feel, makeup wipes actually contain a mix of plastic fibres such as polyester and polypropylene which prevent them from biodegrading. warns that they break down into microplastics and smaller fibres which will end up polluting the oceans and entering the food chain.

‘With such a high number of wipes being used, there’s a lot of single-use plastic coming into the world’, Mark says. ‘The only way to prevent this happening is to stop using them.’

Don’t flush wipes!

To add to the damage, makeup wipes and other wet wipes are not recyclable, meaning that the only way they can be properly disposed of is to put them into your rubbish bin.

‘For heaven’s sake do not flush makeup wipes down the toilet – you’ll only break your toilet and block up the sewers. You don’t want poo flooding your bathroom, do you? I know it’s hard to get hold of toilet paper at the moment, but this is not the answer.’

MARK HALL spokesman

9.3 million wet wipes are flushed down the loo every day, and they account for a staggering 93% of all sewer blockages. Makeup wipes are a big contributor to the problem.

Flushing anything other than toilet paper down the loo could add to ‘fatbergs’ in the sewers, which are caused by a build-up of fat and non-biodegradable materials such as wet wipes, which can lead to sewers blocking or overflowing.

Fortunately, several brands are leading the way – high street store Holland & Barrett has pledged to remove all wet wipes from their stores and brands are moving to plastic-free wipes.

Alternatives to wipes

With many people knowing that makeup wipes are bad news for the environment, alternative ways to remove makeup are becoming increasingly popular, so why isn’t everyone is making the change?
‘I’ll admit, I buy the cheap makeup wipes from the supermarket, but then I end up using four instead of one’, says shopper Heidi in Lancaster. ‘But I still think it’s cheaper than whatever else is out there.’

Makeup wipes can cost as little as a pound for a pack, whereas plastic-free alternatives can cost 10 times that. It’s easy to see why people are finding it hard to make the switch.

One solution is to use one of the many cleansers on the market with a flannel – a bottle can last for ages, and the flannel is washable.

Alternatively you could invest in a washable makeup remover cloth which only needs to be run under a tap before use. It can be chucked in your washing machine when you’ve used it, which over time will be much cheaper than restocking on makeup wipes.

Using a gentle soap, some water and a little bit of arm power is another alternative.

Ultimately, we need to get people to realise that makeup wipes are a single-use plastic, like carrier bags and straws, says company spokesman Mark Hall.

‘If people can take their own bags to the supermarket’, Mark says, ‘then they can wipe out the wet wipe.’

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