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27 June 2024

North Wales Wet Wipes Factory Faces Closure


Global manufacturer Kimberly-Clark is consulting on closing its North Wales plant due to a ban on the sale of wet wipes containing plastic.

It said that while phasing out plastics from its wipes was part of its sustainability plans, the UK Government deadline ‘significantly limits’ its ability to adapt manufacturing processes at the Flint factory, which is reported to employ around 220 people.

In April the UK Government announced that “world-leading legislation” would be introduced this year to help tackle plastic pollution and clean up waterways.

It said that wet wipes containing plastic break down into microplastics over time, which research shows can be harmful to human health and disrupt our ecosystems – with a recent survey showing an average of 20 wet wipes were found per 100 metres of beach surveyed across the UK.

The Government said an 18-month transition period would start from when legislation is passed to allow businesses time to prepare. Following consultation with industry, it said, the ban will not include the manufacture of these products, in line with other recent single-use plastic bans.

A Kimberly-Clark spokesperson said:

“Following the official announcement by the UK Government to ban the sale of wet wipes containing plastic, we are consulting on the proposed closure of our manufacturing operations at Flint, North Wales, in 2025.

“Phasing out plastics from our baby wipes has long been part of K-C’s sustainability plans and we have already removed a significant amount of plastic from them. Most of our baby wipes use a proprietary technology with 70% natural fibres and 30% plastic added to provide the necessary strength to clean and care for babies' skin properly.

“However, we’re unable to meet the UK Government’s deadline of mid-2026 as it significantly limits our ability to adapt our consumer manufacturing processes in Flint in time, which means it may no longer be viable to keep our consumer and B2B sites operational.

“Decisions that involve our employees are the hardest to make and we know it is a challenging period for our team. Supporting them through this complex situation is our top priority.

“Should the site closure proposal go ahead, we will keep the Flint site operational into 2025,  and will continue to work closely with our customers and retailers on transition plans for affected products.”

The company says it has reduced its plastics footprint overall by 16.4% towards its goal of a 50% reduction by 2030 over its 2019 baseline.


 



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