New Campaign Urges Scots to Bin All Wipes

23 February 2022

Bin all wipes

Avoid sewer blockages, flooding, and pollution 

Scotland is being urged to bin all wipes – and ban wipes containing plastic - in a major new campaign to help protect the environment.

Scottish Water is asking the public to join forces to avoid sewer blockages, flooding, and pollution by consigning wipes to the bin.

And it is also calling on governments north and south of the border to work together to ban wipes made with plastic.

The new nationwide campaign – Nature Calls – is backed by a range of other organisations, including the Marine Conservation Society, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Zero Waste Scotland.

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Douglas Millican, Scottish Water Chief Executive, said: “Our message to our customers is clear: please bin the wipes and help us protect the environment.

“And to policymakers we say now is the time to ban all wipes containing plastic and rid our sewers, rivers and beaches of this needless problem. Last year, more than 10,000 tonnes of material – the equivalent of 80 blue whales - was removed from Scotland’s waste water plants. Many thousands of tonnes more ended up blocking sewers, causing flooding, or being flushed into rivers during storms and heavy rain. Research by the Marine Conservation Society shows that wipes are now the most common cause of beach pollution.

“Wipes are an understandable convenience item - but many contain plastic, that cause serious problems when disposed of inappropriately by flushing down the toilet - blocked sewers, homes flooded with sewage, and pollution on our beaches and rivers.

“Every year our teams deal with around 36,000 blockages at a cost to customers of £7 million annually and around 80 per cent of the blockages we attend feature wipes. Members of the public, communities, campaigners, manufacturers, retailers and governments must all work together to do the right thing for nature now and for generations to come.”

The Nature Calls campaign was launched at Cramond Beach, Edinburgh, today (Feb 23) supported by Scottish Water volunteers taking part in a beach clean. The campaign will feature adverts on multiple channels through February and March. More information is available at
Nature Calls wipes

Wipes at Paisley Water Treatment Works

Nature Calls

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“Wipes are an understandable convenience item - but many contain plastic, that cause serious problems when disposed of inappropriately by flushing down the toilet - blocked sewers, homes flooded with sewage, and pollution on our beaches and rivers.”

Douglas Millican
Chief Executive, Scottish Water
Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said: “The actions we take at home can help protect Scotland’s world-renowned rivers, lochs, wetlands and seas. Flushing inappropriate items contributes to serious blockages in our sewers, unsightly debris in our rivers and can cause great harm to our marine environment; by being aware of this and changing our habits we can all help protect our precious, rivers seas and wildlife.

“Every year, hundreds of millions of pieces of single-use plastic are wasted in this country - they litter our coasts, pollute our oceans and contribute to the climate emergency. Scotland was the first country in the UK to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds and we have taken action to place market restrictions on plastic microbeads. We are pursuing proposals to ban some of the most problematic single-use plastic items, such as straws and plastic cutlery, subject to the impact of the UK Internal Market Act 2020.

“We support the calls to ban wet wipes containing plastic and encourage the UK Government and other administrations to work with us to bring forward bans on unnecessary and environmentally harmful products.”

A wide range of organisations have voiced support for Nature Calls.
Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer for the Marine Conservation Society, said: “A staggering 30,000 wet wipes have been picked up by our volunteers right here on Cramond beach over the last five years. It’s not just a problem here though. At last year’s Great British Beach Clean we found an average of 25 wet wipes for every 100m of Scottish beach surveyed. 

“Our toilets can still sadly be gateways to the ocean which is why incorrectly flushed items like plastic wet wipes can be found on beaches across Scotland. We need to stop plastic items, like wet wipes, getting into the sewer system and out in the ocean. That’s why we’re supporting the Nature Calls campaign to ban plastic wet wipes and help reduce the number of wipes mis-flushed. Show your support for wet wipe free beaches and seas by supporting the campaign too!”

Keep Scotland Beautiful Chief Executive Barry Fisher said: “I’m delighted to see Scottish Water highlighting this important issue, encouraging everyone to be more conscious of the environmental impact of plastic wipes. We want doing the right thing for our environment to be easy and possible for everyone – including manufacturers finding affordable alternatives to plastic free wipes. This will make sure that industry contributes to the future without wipes that clog up our waterways and oceans, harming wildlife and permanently changing our environment.

“Scotland is facing a climate and litter emergency, so action to find affordable solutions to plastic free wipes is needed to protect the future of our country. This campaign will help industry and individuals to understand that their actions can and do make a difference.”

Zero Waste Scotland Chief Executive Iain Gulland said: “It is great to see campaigns like this become more prominent in tackling the urgent problem of single-use items. At Zero Waste Scotland, we understand just how important it is to ban single-use plastic – and single-use items in general.  We champion more sustainable ways of operating, which is why we love to see efforts, like Nature Calls from Scottish Water, grabbing attention and encouraging us all to think about our throw-away culture. Each time we choose to reuse we are one step closer to a more circular economy that will help alleviate Scotland’s contribution to the climate crisis.”

Simon Jones, Director of Environment and Visitor Services at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said: “Our lochs and rivers are a crucial part of what makes the National Park, and Scotland, such a special place. Not only beautiful to look at and enjoy, but these water bodies are also vital wildlife habitats and keeping them as healthy as possible helps us tackle both the climate and nature crises. Sadly, wipes can get into these water bodies causing harm to water quality, wildlife, and their beauty. We consider them a form of pollution and therefore we are supporting the call for wipes containing plastic to be banned and urge everyone to do their bit by never flushing wipes.”

Lang Banks, Director, WWF Scotland, said: “At every step in its lifecycle, even long after it has been discarded, plastic causes harm to wildlife and contributes to the climate crisis we’re facing today. If we’re to stop climate change and eliminate plastic pollution from our oceans, we need to rapidly phase out unnecessary single-use plastics and that includes a ban on wipes made with plastic.”

David Field, CEO of the Royal Zoological Society Scotland, said: “At RZSS we're inspiring and enabling our visitors and communities to do their bit to protect our planet and the wildlife we share it with. We want to make it as easy as possible to be a champion for nature. 

“We're supporting the Nature Calls campaign because one of the simplest actions we can each take is to stop putting wet wipes and plastic products down our drains and we agree that wipes containing plastic should be banned. Not only does flushing these items cause flooding and pollution as they block and break pipes, but they end up littering our beaches and oceans and killing wildlife.”