Scotland first to ban plastic cotton buds in UK

The Scottish government has made plans to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds in a move that will cut the country’s marine plastic pollution by half, campaigners say.

The move, which will make Scotland the first in the UK to impose an outright ban on the product, comes after rising concerns about the number of buds being washed up on beaches after being flushed down toilets.

Although most big retailers have switched to biodegradable paper-stemmed buds, smaller outlets continue to sell plastic-stemmed buds.

The environmental charity Fidra, which runs the Cotton Bud Project in East Lothian, found hundreds of buds on a large stretch of shore on the Gullan beach in a recent clean-up operation.

Roseanne Cunningham, Scotland’s environment secretary, said: “Banning plastic cotton buds would be a clear sign of our ambition to address marine plastics and demonstrate further leadership on this issue.

“Despite various campaigns, people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets and this has to stop. Scotland’s sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945ml 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.”

Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This decisive action is great news for the environment and for wildlife. Cotton buds are a very visible sign of our hugely wasteful habits, turning up on beaches across the globe. Manufacturers and supermarkets are already moving in the right direction, but this single measure will guarantee that Scotland cuts its contribution to marine plastic pollution in half.

“Following the plastic bag charge and the announcement of a deposit and return scheme for drinks’ bottles and cans, this is another good step on the way to a society which uses resources more sensibly. We look forward to further initiatives when the government’s promised new group on single-use plastic containers, such as coffee cups, reports its work.”

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