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The Environmental Audit Committee have launched an enquiry to examine how hand car washes are regulated and what steps need to be taken to ensure they are operated safely and sustainably when it comes to the disposal of waste and cleaning chemicals.

Hand car washes are increasing in popularity as they are quick, cheap and can be done in a car park whilst you do your shopping. The car wash association estimates there to be between 10,000 and 20,000 of them in operation throughout the UK, and with so many brands and very few regulations, who should be taking responsibility?

Therefore the committee intends to fully examine the impact of hand car washing compared to automatic systems and aims to understand how they are regulated, what can be done to ensure compliance and how the government can intervene in order to ensure they are operated in a sustainable way.

Although hand car washes provide a quick, accessibly and personal service, it is clear to see on the ground that there is an issue with waste water and detergents. Especially, as often these car washes will be set up in a car park with no real drainage or poor waste disposal facilities.

Dirty water and harsh cleaning chemicals therefore slowly flow into storm drains and end up polluting streams and rivers which is becoming a huge problem. Not only that, but the masses of water being used on an hourly basis could be considered as unsustainable.

Although the main focus of this inqury is into the environmental impact of hand car washing, it will also be questioning what can be done to ensure they are operated legally and without exploitation.

The chair of the environmental committee states: “Hand car washes are a familiar sight throughout the UK and often offer drivers a cheaper and more convenient alternative to automatic car washes, but they may be having a damaging environmental impact.

“Oil, dirt and cleaning products are often not disposed of correctly, which could be having a significant impact on local water sources and wildlife. The Independent Anti-Slavery Commission has also expressed concerns around the exploitation of the workforce at hand car washes. We are concerned about the cost to the public purse of tackling criminality, including trafficking, tax evasion and enforcement of minimum wage law.”

The association of convenience stores welcomes the inqury and says they plan to consult with members in the coming weeks to assist in the committees inquiry. Interested parties have until 5pm on Friday 18th May to make their submissions.