Boots the chemist is to stop selling wet wipes that contain plastic fibres in the UK by the end of the year.
The British pharmacy chain — which sold more than 800 million baby wipes in the past year — said it would replace plastic-based wipes with plant-based biodegradable alternatives.
Boots has reformulated its own-brand wipes to remove plastic.
A large proportion of the 11 billion wet wipes used in the UK every year contain some form of plastic, the Marine Conservation Society says.
Wipes are often flushed down the toilet by consumers. One study found they were responsible for more than nine in 10 blockages in Britain's sewers.
They also pollute waterways, accumulating and changing the shape of riverbeds, and find their way into the sea.
Boots is one of the biggest sellers of wet wipes in the UK, with more than 140 different lines stocked across skincare, baby, tissue and healthcare categories.
Steve Ager, chief customer and commercial officer at Boots UK, said because customers were “more aware than ever” of the potential effect their lifestyle has on the environment, they were “actively looking to brands and retailers to help them lead more sustainable lives”.
“We removed plastics from our own brand and No7 wet wipe ranges in 2021 and now we are calling on other brands and retailers across the UK to follow suit in eliminating all plastic-based wet wipes,” Mr Ager said.
“We all have a responsibility to protect our planet. By joining forces to inspire more positive action, we can collectively make a big difference.”
Junior environment minister Rebecca Pow said the move was positive. “This is a really encouraging commitment from Boots to prevent the damaging plastics in wet wipes from entering our environment,” she said.
“We have already conducted a call for evidence on wet wipes, including the potential for banning those containing plastic.
“In the meantime, our message is clear — you should bin and not flush wet wipes.”
Marine Conservation Society chief executive Sandy Luk said: “It’s a fantastic step in the right direction for retailers, like Boots, to remove plastic from their own-brand wet wipes and ask that all brands they stock do the same.
“Our volunteers found nearly 6,000 wet wipes during the Great British Beach Clean in September 2021, which is an average of 12.5 wet wipes for every 100 metres of beach surveyed.
“The fact we’re still finding so many wet wipes on beaches shows that we need to remove plastic from wet wipes and move towards reusable options wherever possible, and it’s great that Boots are making commitments to this.”