Cleansing the face when you’re in a hurry, caring for a baby, sanitizing your hands—there are myriad reasons to reach for a wet wipe. They are majorly convenient and easy to carry for cleaning and disinfecting on the go. As we’ve become more aware of spreading germs and contaminants, sales of wet wipes have skyrocketed. Last year, Boots UK sold 800 million wipes online and in stores.
The problem is that many wet wipes contain plastic fibres, considered “microplastics,” which do not break down after disposal. Flushing or improperly disposing of a wet wipe containing plastic can inflict damage on water and soil systems, harming the human, plant and animal life with which they come into contact. On average, humans now ingest five grams of plastic a week, the equivalent of a credit card.
In response, Boots UK announced that any wet wipes sold in stores or online that contain plastic will be replaced with plant- or wood fiber-based alternatives by the end of 2022. This comes after taking action to eliminate plastic altogether from its owned brand wet wipes in 2021. Both are major steps not only for global retailers like Boots, but for the environment at large.
Boots has been committed to eliminating plastic from its owned products for years. Since 2018, when Boots signed the UK Plastics Pact facilitated by WRAP, the company has led the industry in eliminating the use of problematic plastics like the ones found in wet wipes, as well as increasing recycling programs throughout the business.
Other notable achievements in making the retail experience more sustainable include:
- Ceasing the manufacturing and sale of rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads before regulations were introduced
- Transitioning owned brand cotton buds stems (swabs) from plastic to rolled paper
- Reducing plastic use in the outer wrapping of sanitary towels by 40 percent
- Becoming the first national pharmacy, health and beauty retailer to replaces plastic carrier bags with unbleached, recyclable paper bags
- Along with No7 Beauty Company, committing to a 30 percent reduction in plastic packaging by 2025 and most recently reporting that 65 percent of packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
- At the end of calendar year 2021, Boots was at 99.8% of its goal to offer 100% plastic-free online deliveries, save for one item of packaging for which a bioplastic alternative has been sourced
Discover more about decision to eliminate plastic from wet wipes from John Sweeney, Boots UK’s head of product sustainability, and Natalie Gourlay, head of CSR.