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Plastic-stemmed cotton buds

Plastic-stemmed cotton budsIn January 2018 the Scottish Government proposed to introduce legislation which bans the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds in Scotland due to a number of factors including:

  • Plastics in our seas harm our marine environment

  • Plastic-stemmed cotton buds are contributing to this problem and are one of the most commonly found items of plastic litter washed up on our shores

  • Campaigns to promote behaviour change have failed to stop the irresponsible disposal of these items down toilets

  • ‘The Cotton Bud Project’ has demonstrated that manufacturers and retailers are able to trade in viable biodegradable alternative products and there is therefore no known reason as to why other companies would be unable to follow this best practice

A public consultation was held from 27 April – 22 June 2018, and the subsequent consultation response report published on 30 July 2018. The draft legislation and Public Notice are available at the bottom of the page.

The issue

Plastic-stemmed cotton buds are contributing to the global marine plastic problem, damaging the marine environment, increasing risk to public health from contact on beaches and bathing waters and risking health further when fragments of plastic enter the food chain. They are in our seas because people are continuing to flush them down toilets and sewage treatment works cannot prevent all of them reaching the sea. When entering sewage systems the plastic stems do not settle with organics, their buoyancy allows them to flow through plant equipment and their narrow diameter means they are not caught by all screens.

Plastic cotton bud stems are consistently observed to constitute approximately 5-10% of marine debris surveyed in European seas and feature in the ten most common items found in Marine Conservation Society beach surveys in Scotland.

The Environmental Protection (Cotton Buds) (Scotland) Regulations 2019: Legislation

Downloadable document:

Title:Plastic-stemmed cotton buds
Description:Information about Plastic-stemmed cottonbuds
File:The Environmental Protection (Cotton Buds) (Scotland) Regulations 2019 [PDF, 116.5 kb: 20 Aug 2018]
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The Environmental Protection (Cotton Buds) (Scotland) Regulations 2019: Public Notice

Downloadable document:

Title:Plastic-stemmed cotton buds
Description:Information about Plastic-stemmed cottonbuds
File:The Environmental Protection (Cotton Buds) (Scotland) Regulations 2019: Public Notice [PDF, 6.3 kb: 31 Aug 2018]
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