Scotland has banned plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, in a move to help reduce plastic pollution in the country. Bits of plastic Q-tips get washed up onto beaches and are harmful to marine life and local animals.

The rules prohibit the sale and manufacturing of the plastic cotton ear buds. The country banned plastic microbeads in June, 2018. 1.8 billion ear buds are sold in the United Kingdom each year. England will ban cotton buds starting April 2020.

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Scotland’s Environmental Secretary said that banning buds was just the start of fighting plastic, saying, “We will continue to take action on other problematic items in the coming years as part of our efforts to reduce harmful plastics and single-use items, protect our environment and develop a thriving circular economy.We are facing a global climate emergency and must all work together to reduce, reuse and recycle to ensure a sustainable future for the current and next generation.”

The Marine Conservation Society applauded the move, telling Sky News, “We look forward to more ambitious action from the Scottish government and to working with them on further actions needed to stop the plastic tide.” The items are listed on the Marine Conservation Society’s top ten forms of beach litter, according to the BBC. The group has cleaned 150,000 buds from Scottish beaches since 1995.

After Johnson & Johnson switched away from plastic in their product in 2017, other manufacturers promised to follow suit.

Environmentalists say the product ends up in birds and turtle intestines, causing significant damage.

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Movement in the United States has been much slower, apart from companies like Johnson & Johnson taking steps to remove plastic from products. Unilever, producer of Q-tips, does not include plastic in its product.

Q tips made environmental news in 2017 when a wildlife photographer, Justin Hofman, captured a photo of a seahorse holding a cotton swab. The photo was taken while Hofman was snorkeling off the coast of Indonesia.

Hofman posted the photo to Instagram

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View this post on Instagram

It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it. What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage. This sea horse drifts long with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago. This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet?
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thanks to @eyosexpeditions for getting me there and to @nhm_wpy and @sea_legacy for getting this photo in front of as many eyes as possible. Go to @sea_legacy to see how you can make a difference. . #plastic #seahorse #wpy53 #wildlifephotography #conservation @nhm_wpy @noaadebris #switchthestick

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A post shared by Justin Hofman (@justinhofman) on

Read more about plastic pollution in One Green Planet. And read more on Unilever’s new initiatives on plastic reduction.

If you’d like to do your part in reducing and avoiding your use of cotton swabs for the sake of the environment, check out these eco-friendly reusable swabs you can purchase online for just $8.99!

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