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Why biodegradable isn’t always so great

All Areas > Environment > Save the Planet

Author: Louise Williams, Posted: Monday, 24th February 2020, 09:00

The thing about environmental information being more freely available with the internet is that you begin to learn that things you believed your whole life might not be accurate. You read or hear biodegradable and you think that it’s planet friendly right?

Well, I have some worrying news for you. Certain items will only break down (biodegrade) with a specific combination of chemicals and gasses present, and even then they convert into micro-plastics, leaving toxic residue. So just because something states biodegradable on the packet, you still need to check it’s really an ecologically sound product.

There are genuine plant-friendly options

It really does seem to be a scary time and so many favourite products are suddenly ecologically damaging but rest assured, there are some genuinely planet safe options. I want to talk about something that as a mum, was one of my parenting staples.

Wet wipes! They have a multitude of uses and saved the day for me on more than one occasion, but knowing what I do now, I’d never have used the ones I did. They are one of the worst!

A recent study discovered that 90% of wet wipes contain plastic. This also refers to the so-called flushable toilet wipes – please don’t flush them, despite what they say on the packaging. Wipes cause no end of problems in the sewer systems and also leak micro-plastics into the water!

So what can you use instead to tackle these parenting emergencies? Well never fear, there are quite a lot of alternatives!

Go back to a simpler time and just use damp flannel squares for sticky fingers and faces. Have a search online – there are so many reusable fabric wipes available to buy now that you can wash in the machine and use time and time again. There are lots of pretty designs and softer options for delicate skin.

Do your research and find what’s best for you

If you can’t face that when you are dealing with changing nappies (a whole article topic in itself!), there are wipes that are made of bamboo or cotton that state ‘biodegradable’. These genuinely do break down completely and contain no plastic. Just do a bit of research first to make sure they really are good ones.

There are also compostable wipes available – a far better option, but it’s important to compost them properly, as they apparently don’t break down in landfills.

The thing with the truly planet-friendly wipes is that sadly they are often more expensive than their plastic counterparts, making them out of budget for some. The most cost-effective option is of course reusable fabric wipes, but if wet wipes with plastic really are your only option, maybe simply try to limit your use of them and never ever flush them.

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