Scotland Becomes First Country to Outlaw Plastic-Stemmed Cotton Swabs

January 12, 2018 at 5:15 pm




Plastic stems from cotton swabs collected on a beach in Scotland. Credit: BBC

Scotland just cut it’s contribution to ocean plastic pollution in half by banning the sale of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs.

The move, which makes Scotland the first country to impose an outright ban on the product, is in response to concerns about the large number of cotton buds found washed up on beaches after being flushed down toilets.

“Despite various campaigns, people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets and this has to stop,” Scotland’s environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham.




“Scotland’s sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945m litres of waste water each day. These systems are not designed to remove small plastic items such as plastic buds, which can kill marine animals and birds that swallow them.”

Most big retailers and brands — like Q-Tip maker Johnson and Johnson — have already made the switch to biodegradable paper-stemmed buds, but some smaller stores continue to import plastic brands from China.

“A ban would support the responsible businesses that have already removed this single-use plastic item from their shelves,” Alasdair Neilson, who runs The Cotton Bud Project, said.

The Marine Conservation Society joined forces with the Cotton Bud Project and found an average 29 buds per 100m of Scotland beaches they surveyed.

“This single measure will guarantee that Scotland cuts its contribution to marine plastic pollution in half,” Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, told The Guardian.

RELATED: Scientist Call for a Ban on Glitter, the Latest Microplastic Found Polluting the Ocean

RELATED: Yoga Pants are Destroying the Planet