The Marine Conservation Society's annual survey of beach litter for 2014 shows a 50% increase in the number of wet-wipes compared with 2013. It is now possible to find 35 wet wipes on every kilometer of beach around the UK and these are now a bigger problem than other sanitary disposables. Of the 101 categories of beach litter, wet wipes showed the second highest growth over the last decade. Plastic pieces were the worst offender, but the MCS noted that wet-wipes contained plastic - polyester - and therefore last a very long time in the sea.
Cotton buds, as evidenced by their plastic sticks, had declined over the decade but showed an unexpected increase over the last year. These are still more numerous than wet-wipes (per km of beach) but have significantly less visual impact. The numbers of wet-wipes found is now comparable to the numbers of plastic bags on beaches.
It will be interesting to see if the increased use of flushables reverses this trend.
The report can be downloaded here.