As a team comprised of mostly mothers, here at MADE SAFE we know that baby wipes are more than just a convenience – they’re a necessity. They’ve been a permanent fixture in our nurseries, a staple in our diaper bags, and tucked into the corners of our cars for emergencies. Wipes have saved us in public when we’ve encountered messes of magnitude we didn’t know were possible before becoming parents.
As our children have grown, those wipes have transformed into much more – a savior for sticky fingers, a substitute for scrubbing surfaces in a pinch, and a stand-in makeup remover on-the-go. And we know that outside the MADE SAFE team, people have found endless uses for wipes – dusting, removing stains, taking “showers” when camping, and as a toilet paper alternative.
Wipes are everywhere. Including our oceans.
THE CIRCLE OF LIFE
Many of us know that our oceans are in dire straits. One of the main culprits is plastic. Plastic can break down into tiny pieces called microplastics, which are pervasive in our oceans – not to mention in our bays, lakes, and even drinking water. Plastics break down into tiny pieces, but they essentially never go away, as plastic is typically not biodegradable.
Microplastics are often consumed by aquatic life, both large and small. And as the web of life goes, small aquatic animals that have eaten plastic are then consumed by predators. Those predators are consumed by even larger predators. You remember the story from grade school.
The circle of life – predator becoming prey – allows microplastics to progressively build up with each successive level of the food chain. And the largest predator of all? Us. Humans.
Plastic particles have been found in seafood. What this means is that when we consume ocean animals, we may be unknowingly consuming microplastics.
Researchers don’t yet understand how consuming microplastics – whether from seafood or our drinking water – will impact humans. More study is needed (and fast!) to understand the risks. However, researchers do know that plastics are capable of leaching toxic substances. We also know that plastic can break down in animals’ stomachs. So it’s very possible that plastic can break down in our stomachs too and that it could be leaching harmful substances in the process.
The problem with plastic pollution isn’t just about us though. Building evidence suggests that marine animals may be threatened by consuming microplastics. And the plastic issue extends beyond consumption; animals can be entangled or smothered by debris, which can injure, debilitate, or even kill them. Some estimates say that if our use of plastic continues at this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050!
THE ROLE OF WIPES
Where does all this plastic in the ocean come from? Land. The majority is the result of urban run-off from landfills (excess water flow from floods and storms that can carry items with it), litter, industrial sites, and also from trash being blown from garbage trucks. Marine sources are significant too, things like fishing boats and merchant ships.
So what do wipes have to do with all of this? The majority of wipes are actually made with or from plastic! They may feel soft against your baby’s bottom, but they’re made out of the same materials as what’s used to make plastic water and soda bottles, food packaging, diapers, and so much more. The wipe material has just been manufactured differently to create a unique, soft texture. Wipes are often made of PET (recycling code #1), polypropylene (recycling code #3), or cotton woven together with plastic resins.
Wipes are an item that can’t be recycled, which means they end up in landfills where they can be carried to the ocean and degrade into microplastics, contributing to plastic pollution in the ocean.
As scientists and environmental advocates call for urgent action to slow down our use of plastics – especially single-use plastic like wipes, straws and to-go containers – the market and uses for wipes seems to just keep growing!
If you’re a parent, think about the number of wipes you use on a daily basis – the number might be huge! No judgement from us, we’re parents too. So what can you do today to make the biggest impact? Switch to biodegradable wipes.
MAKING THE SWAP
If you’re not a parent, making the swap is meaningful for you too – if we all switched to biodegradable wipes, the positive impact on the planet would be huge.
Biodegradable wipes are made of substances that can break down readily in the environment in a reasonable time (read: not plastic). Biodegradable wipes are often made of cotton or bamboo.
Switching to biodegradable wipes prevents plastic wipes from heading to our landfills and potentially our oceans. By choosing biodegradable wipes, you’re also sending a message to companies that you value the health of our oceans, the animals that we share the planet with, and the health of the environment as a whole. Companies are listening, and each shift in how we shop pushes the market in the right direction.
At MADE SAFE, we’re always considering the ways that small changes can have a huge impact, whether that’s on your health or the health of the planet. With wipes, a small change means huge impacts.
When you’re ready to make the swap, check out MADE SAFE certified wipes on our website. Each are made of natural fibers that are biodegradable.
And to learn more about shopping for safer wipes, read our report, What’s Inside Wipes. You’ll learn more about toxic ingredients in wipes, “fatbergs” (masses of congealed wipes and grease) clogging up sewers, and more. It also includes a free screen-shottable shopping guide.
DOWNLOAD WHAT’S INSIDE WIPES REPORT