Ban on Plastic-containing Wet Wipes (Water and Sewerage Charges)

Topical Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament am ar 23 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of reported statistics indicating that wet wipes contribute to up to 94 per cent of sewer blockages, what assessment it has made of the potential impact on Scottish Water of the planned ban on wet wipes containing plastic, including whether water and sewerage charges will be reduced in the future as a result of the ban. (S6T-01937)

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I was pleased to announce this week that we will this year introduce regulations to ban wet wipes containing plastic. That follows a United Kingdom-wide consultation in which 95 per cent of respondents agreed with our proposals.

The member is right to point out that, as well as the positive impact on our natural environment, there are potentially wider benefits. However, significantly reducing sewer blockages would require consumers to stop flushing wet wipes—whether or not they contain plastic—into the sewers. Any savings that are made will allow our publicly owned Scottish Water to invest in its ageing infrastructure, so that it is fit for the future and can continue adapting to climate change.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

I agree with the minister that wet wipes are a problematic source of marine litter, as I have seen first hand when dealing with beach clean-ups in my constituency. How much plastic is the ban likely to prevent from polluting our marine environment?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Our previously introduced bans on single-use plastics have already been effective in reducing beach litter. Approximately 30.5 billion wet wipes are sold across the UK annually, 64 per cent of which include some plastic. Although we do not know the exact quantity of plastic in total or the proportion of those wipes that could have been incorrectly and irresponsibly flushed, potentially polluting our marine environment, we do know that, by removing approximately 19.5 billion of those products from the market, we will help to reduce the risk of the harm that is caused by plastic pollution.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

The ban is not only a positive step for the planet but should ensure that Scottish Water spends less of its resources on responding to the problem of blockages, which are reported to cost around £7 million of bill payers’ money each year. On the assumption that the ban will help Scottish Water to save money, will there be scope to reduce water and sewerage charges or for future increases to charges to be smaller?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Decisions about household water charges are for the board of Scottish Water, with approval from the independent economic regulator. However, as I indicated in my earlier answer, any savings that are made will allow Scottish Water to invest in infrastructure to ensure that it can continue adapting to climate change.