Plastic-stemmed cotton buds now banned in Scotland

The move follows concerns about people continuing to flush them down toilets, which contribute to the global marine plastic pollution issue

The Big Zero report

Scotland has become the first part of the UK to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

The move follows concerns about people continuing to flush them down toilets, which contribute to the global marine plastic pollution issue, as sewage treatment works cannot prevent all of them reaching the sea.

Plastic cotton bud stems are said to account for around 5% to 10% of marine debris found in European seas and are consistently listed in the top 10 forms of beach litter by the Marine Conservation Society.

A similar ban, which will also include plastic stirrers and straws, will come into force in England next year.

Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I am proud that the Scottish Government has become the first UK administration to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

“Single-use plastic products are not only wasteful but generate unnecessary litter that blights our beautiful beaches and green spaces while threatening our wildlife on land and at sea. This ban builds on work already underway to address Scotland’s throwaway culture and 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.”

Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer for the Marine Conservation Society adds volunteers have picked up more than 150,000 plastic cotton bud sticks from Scottish beaches over the last 25 years.

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