PLASTIC FREE BEACHES
KEEP PLASTIC COTTON BUDS OUT OF MARINE LITTER & REDUCE PLASTIC POLLUTION IN OUR SEAS

Another success. Today the delayed ban on plastic cotton buds, drink stirrers and straws came into force across England

This marks (almost) the final milestone for The Cotton Bud Project and draws it to an even greater closure. 

Since 2013, colleagues at Fidra have tirelessly worked to end plastic pollution from plastic cotton buds, by working with scientists, retailers, and governments to put forward the case that something needed to be done.

By identifying plastic stemmed cotton buds as a plastic pollution problem that could be solved, we hoped it would not only address one of the top ten litter items that pollute our beaches but also show industry and government that change is possible. This change would show that plastic could be replaced and rethought in other everyday products, including single-use plastic items.

Prior to the current wave of interest in marine pollution, inspired by the BBC’s Blue Planet II, we saw it as an opportunity to pave the way for change in tackling marine plastics; acting as a catalyst to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic items. A clear problem with a clear solution

Whilst our team at Fidra turns its focus to other projects, we will keep a watchful eye on any further developments.

For more information or to get a press quote, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

471_cotton_buds_collected_from_Gullane_September_2016_-_lo_res.JPG

Thursday, 10 October 2019 10:58

Plastic buds are banned in Scotland

Photo for submission. Copyright David JonesScotland bans plastic-stemmed cotton buds in a bid to rid beaches of single use plastic

Plastic-stemmed cotton buds are set to be replaced with paper ones after new Scottish legislation to ban this single use plastic comes into force on Saturday; the first country in the UK to do so. Often flushed down toilets, cotton buds have been washing up on our shores in their thousands for years and are one of the top ten litter items found on UK beaches[1]. Not only unsightly once in the environment, plastic cotton bud stems also pose a threat to wildlife and have been found in the stomachs of seabirds[2] and turtles[3]-[4]

 

A success

The ban marks a wonderful success for Fidra. We started The Cotton Bud Project in 2013 after staff noticed thousands of cotton buds washing up along the East Lothian coastline and found evidence of a widespread environmental issue. The team persuaded a number of manufacturers and retailers to switch from plastic to less damaging paper stems before turning their attention to legislation (find out more about the whole process by reading our Case Study). This led to a Scottish Government consultation in 2018, which saw overwhelming public support for a ban on plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

 

New legislation

The new legislation banning the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton buds, which comes into force on the 12th October, is welcome news.

Jasper Hamlet, project officer at Fidra which ran The Cotton Bud Project said:

“This ban marks the beginning of the end for plastic cotton bud pollution and is a fantastic step towards tackling unnecessary single use plastic. The ban will no doubt be welcomed by all those who have seen cotton buds polluting our beaches, and by those of us involved in making this a reality; from big businesses who made the switch from plastic to paper, to consumers who have supported plastic alternatives and to Great British Beach Clean volunteers who logged thousands of washed up cotton buds. This legislation is an important part of changing the way we use and value plastics. We hope it is the first of many more concrete actions towards tackling plastic pollution in Scotland and beyond”

Natural Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon said:

“I am proud that the Scottish Government will shortly become the first UK administration to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds. Single-use plastic products are wasteful and their incorrect disposal creates litter and threatens our wildlife on land and at sea.

“The ban, which comes into force on Saturday, builds on work already underway to address Scotland’s throw-away 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 products, protect our environment and grow our circular economy.”

 

A plastic problemCotton buds and nurdles found in a regurgitated gull pellet on Inchkeith, Firth of the Forth

Washed up plastic cotton buds have become a regular sighting during seaside visits over the last decade. In 2018, 21.1 cotton buds were found for every 100m of beached surveyed during Marine Conservation Society’s ‘The Great British Beach Clean’[5]. If flushed down toilets, their size and shape mean cotton buds slip through wastewater treatment systems, wash into rivers and seas, and end up on beaches.

Not only are cotton buds unsightly, but they are a danger to wildlife and an indicator marking the trail of sewage from bathroom to beach. The Scottish coast attracts wildlife such as turtles4 and important populations of seabirds2, both of which have been shown to ingest plastic, including fragments of cotton buds (right).

Photo Credit: Cotton buds and nurdles found in a

regurgitated gull pellet on Inchkeith, Firth of the Forth

 

A vital step

This new legislation will help prevent further pollution of plastic cotton buds in Scotland and even though paper cotton buds should be disposed of responsibly with household waste, if mistakenly flushed down toilets they pose less risk to marine wildlife.

Banning the manufacture and sale of plastic cotton buds is a small but vital step on the journey to end plastic pollution. It highlights the broader issue of unnecessary plastic use and encourages businesses, government and people to take further action.   

 

[1] https://www.mcsuk.org/clean-seas/great-british-beach-clean-2018-report

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749111003344

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025326X01002363

[4] https://www.jove.com/video/59466/data-collection-on-marine-litter-ingestion-sea-turtles-thresholds-for

[5] https://www.mcsuk.org/clean-seas/great-british-beach-clean-2018-report

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 13:09

New bans on cotton buds announced

Today, the UK government confirmed its proposed ban on plastic stemmed cotton buds, drink stirrers and straws and has published a response report following its public consultation to ban the sale and distribution of these three single use plastic items in England.

We were really encouraged to see the vast majority of respondents, both individuals and organisations, support the proposed ban; in the case of Plastic stem cotton buds, 89% of respondents were in favour. We believe this is a positive step in the right direction to tackling the way we use and value plastic, including reducing the need for single use plastic.

Fidra’s The Cotton Bud Project has been working to tackle this form of pollution since 2013 and is delighted that proposed legislation in both Scotland and England could be coming into force by 2020. You can read more about the project and its timeline here.

This follows yesterdays news that the Council of the European Union adopted legislation to regulate the use of single use plastics across the EU. This will see the EU Single Use Plastic Directive take effect later this year, requiring all member states to ban single use plastic items including cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, cotton buds, balloon sticks and expanded polystyrene food containers and cups by 2021[1].

Fidra believes a ban on plastic stemmed cotton buds is the right course of action for the following reasons:

Plastic cotton buds impact our marine environment 

  • There are, on average, 21.2 cotton buds for every 100 meters of UK beach[2]
  • Plastic cotton buds are not only aesthetically undesirable, being found on some of the UK’s most beautiful and iconic beaches, they also pose a significant threat to marine life. Find out herewhy they are risky eating for wildlife and what toxic concentrations they accumulate.  
  • Campaigns to promote behaviour change have had time limited success and failed to stop the incorrect disposal of these items down toilets in the long term.
  • While cotton buds should never be flushed, effectiveness of public awareness campaigns (such as Don’t Flush It messages) have been limited in their success.  Improving appropriate disposal of cotton buds is imperative, but changing the material used to produce them, makes them far less likely to escape through wastewater systems and has to potential to reduce an unnecessary and inappropriate use of plastic material. Find out more about how cotton buds end up on our beaches here

Alternatives are available  

  • There already exists a fully biodegradable and readily available alternative to plastic stemmed cotton buds, in this case, stems made from FSC Certified paper. 
  • Indeed, many of the UK’s largest retailers are now using paper alternatives. For example, the UK-based company Polyco, produces Waitrose’s FSC-certified paper stemmed cotton buds. 

Industry has shown change is possible 

  • Johnson & Johnson Ltd, the UK market leader for cotton budswas the first manufacturer to agree to replace their brand-defining blue plastic cotton bud stems with paper. They publicly announced this in March 2016 at the same time as the retailer Waitrose made the same commitment.
  • Other major UK retailers have also change their sourcing and/or production (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons and Boots UK). 

 

[1] https://seas-at-risk.org/17-marine-litter/960-closing-the-single-use-plastic-pollution-tap-requires-ambitious-targets-from-national-governments.html

[2] https://www.mcsuk.org/media/gbbc-2018-report.pdf

We are coming to the end of 2018 and across the country the question on everyone’s lips is how to #STOPtheplastictide. This year has been the year of single-use plastic and some big moments for those working on the issue of plastic pollution. So, with the need to respond to the UK Government’s consultation on banning plastic cotton buds, straws and drink stirrers[1] and the publication of The Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean 2018 survey results[2], we wanted to bring you a story of collaboration, volunteers and beach cleans.  MCS Scotland Conservation Officer, Catherine Gemmell explains the importance of the data gathered and how it has influenced projects, people and Government resulting in some important change. 

The Marine Conservation Society works on three main areas across the UK including Ocean Recovery, Sustainable Sea Food and Clean Seas and Beaches by working with governments, public and statutory bodies, industry and business and last, but certainly not least, through a fantastic network of volunteers and organisations. One of these organisations is Fidra with whom we have formed a brilliant working partnership over the years. 

25 years of beach cleans

This year we hit a milestone at MCS in completing the 25th year of our citizen science project Beachwatch with the flagship Great British Beach Clean event in September.  The project involves hundreds of volunteers all over Scotland (including the awesome Fidra team!) and the rest of the UK adopting a 100m stretch of beach to not only clean but also survey the amount and type of litter washing up. One of the items that is recorded by volunteers caught the attention of Fidra and helped start a project to rid them from our seas: plastic stemmed cotton buds. 

Beach cleans remove rubbish and adds evidence Cath Gem 2

As Scotland Conservation Officer in MCS, I have worked on promoting our amazing Beachwatch project by engaging with amazing organisations like Fidra, the public, communities and schools across Scotland to help gather as much data from our beaches as possible. The data we collect is crucial not only to MCS marine litter campaign and policy work but also to organisations like Fidra with whom we share the data. Together we use it to identify trends in litter over the years and present it as evidence to governments and industry for policy changes to stop these items getting into our seas and onto our beaches in the first place.  

Such evidence helped secure the 5p carrier bag charges across the UK which has seen a nearly 50% drop in the amount of carrier bags our volunteers are picking up on beaches since the first charge was implemented. More recently in Scotland we used our data to support the 'Have You Got The Bottle?' Campaign. Volunteers had recorded a rise in plastic drinks bottles and cans on the beach during their surveys. So, alongside Fidra and other partners, we asked the Scottish Government to implement a deposit return system for these items as a matter of priority. This means a small value is added to plastic, glass or metal drinks bottles and cans, which can be redeemed when you return it. We were therefore delighted when, in September last year, the Scottish Government committed to implementing a deposit return system and followed up with a public consultation on its design earlier this year; we responded and hope it will be a world leading system that includes all sizes of plastic, glass and metal drinks containers.

Volunteers’ data demonstrate scale of cotton bud pollution

In January 2018, GBBC data proved useful once again and the Scottish Government announced the proposal to ban plastic stemmed cotton buds. This time, Fidra used our Beachwatch data on cotton buds to support the case for a ban on plastic being used as the material for these single-use plastic items. Using the Beachwatch data collected by volunteers across the UK Fidra’s Cotton Bud Project engaged with major cotton bud retailers and manufacturers. By showing industry the widespread issue and providing clear science based supporting evidence for the negative impacts marine plastic pollution has on our environment and wildlife, they were able to persuade industry to change from plastic to paper[3] – a key element helping Scottish Government make this announcement.

 The power of partnership

It has been incredible to work with Fidra on their brilliant Cotton Bud Project and it highlights the power of partnership working. However, we would not have had the evidence we needed to make these policy changes happen without the support of our fantastic volunteers over the past 25 years. 

Both MCS and Fidra recognise that it’s the actions and inspiration from our volunteers around the entire country which truly influences the changes that our seas need. So, whether you can join a beach clean to collect vital data, reduce the amount of single use plastic you use or ask your politicians or businesses to act, together we can stop the plastic tide.

The UK Government’s consultation on banning the sale and distribution on single-use plastic items closes on 3rd December 2018. Please respond at https://consult.defra.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/plastic-straws-stirrers-and-buds/ (closes 03/12)

 

[1] https://consult.defra.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/plastic-straws-stirrers-and-buds/

[2] https://www.mcsuk.org/clean-seas/great-british-beach-clean-2018-report

[3] https://www.cottonbudproject.org.uk/news/item/23-best-buddies-help-marine-life.html

UK Government launches consultation on proposals to ban the sale and distribution of plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England

Fidra, the environmental charity behind the UK’s Cotton Bud Project welcomes the UK Government’s consultation[1] on proposals to ban the distribution and/or sale of plastic straws, plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic drink stirrers in England and supports a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds [2]

Legislation is an important part of changing the way we use and value plastics.

Banning the distribution and sale of cotton buds is a progressive step that will be welcomed by everyone who has seen cotton buds polluting our beaches and harming our wildlife [3].

Plastic cotton bud stems make up a significant proportion of the sewage-related debris found on UK beaches. If flushed down toilets, their size and shape mean cotton buds slip through wastewater treatment systems, wash into rivers and seas, and end up on beaches. Not only are cotton buds unsightly, but they are a danger to wildlife [4] and an indicator marking the trail of sewage from bathroom to beach.

Plastic cotton bud stems were the 8th most common item found on the beach in the Marine Conservation Society’s 2017 Beach Clean Report [5] with an average of nearly 27 stems found per 100m; During the 2017 Great British Beach Clean a total of 1,235 cotton buds were found on just 5 separate beach cleans (a total of 500m beach surveyed) along the Essex coastline, England.  In August 2018 over 367 cotton buds were found along the strandline of Perran Sands beach, Cornwall.

Jasper Hamlet, who manages the Cotton Bud Project at Fidra said “there is now global recognition that we need to re-think the way that plastics are used – this consultation is an opportunity for the UK to demonstrate our commitment to ending plastic pollution. We have seen plastic cotton bud stems blighting our beaches for decades, representing mismanagement of waste and unnecessary plastic use. Thanks to our Cotton Bud Projectresponsible retailers and manufacturers have already removed this single-use plastic item from their shelves showing that change is possible; the UK Government’s proposed ban would support industry leaders and ensure others make this change too.”

Some retailers and leading manufacturers of cotton buds have already replaced plastic stems with paper. Johnson & Johnson Ltd spokesperson stated: “We fully support the proposal to reduce the use of plastics in cotton buds in the UK. We recognise that our products have an environmental footprint. That’s why we worked with Fidra last year to remove the plastic sticks from our cotton buds and replace them with 100% paper instead. One year later we are immensely proud to have been one of the first companies in the UK to transition away from plastic stems.”

Banning the distribution and sale of plastic cotton buds is a small but vital step on the journey to end plastic pollution. It highlights the broader issue and encourages businesses, government and people to take further action.

Ends

Media contact: Jasper Hamlet This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Heather McFarlane This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel: 01620 895677

www.cottonbudproject.org.uk

www.fidra.org.uk

@fidratweets

#cottonbudproject

Cotton Buds 2018

Notes for editors

[1] https://consult.defra.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/plastic-straws-stirrers-and-buds/

[2] Since 2013, Fidra has been encouraging manufacturers and retailers stop making and selling plastic cotton buds and change to plastic-free alternatives such as paper. Johnson & Johnson Ltd was the first to commit to stop manufacturing plastic cotton buds in 2016. This was followed by most of the major UK retailers committing to make the change away from plastic cotton buds. The ‘Good Buddy List’ of retailers and brands which do not have plastic stems can be found on The Cotton Bud Project’s website.

Fidra’s Cotton Bud Project supported by our partners and the retailers who have already changed to paper stems, led to the Scottish Government publishing draft legislation (The Environmental Protection (Cotton Buds) (Scotland) Regulations 2019) in the London Gazette and Edinburgh Gazette on 3rd September 2018 banning the manufacture and sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds in Scotland. 99.4% of respondents to the consultation preceding this legislation, supported a ban on plastic stemmed cotton buds, including Boots UK and Waitrose.

Fidra set up and runs The Cotton Bud ProjectFidra is a Scottish registered charity (SCIO no. SCO43895) based in East Lothian, Scotland. It seeks to engage local concerns over current and emerging environmental issues, and use this to contribute to a wider dialogue at national and international levels.

More information on the issue and Fidra’s efforts in solving this issue can be found in this blog.

[3]. Fidra believes a ban on plastic cotton bud stems is the right course of action for the following reasons:

  • Plastic cotton bud stems impact our marine environment;
  • Campaigns to promote behaviour change have failed to stop the incorrect disposal of these items down toilets in the long term;
  • Alternatives are available;
  • Industry has shown change is possible.

[4]. Plastic cotton bud stems are a danger to marine life and have been found in the stomachs of fulmars and loggerhead turtles. They are known to cause deaths due to damage to internal organs. In addition, plastics in the ocean act like a sponge for chemical pollutants such as pesticides. Toxins which may be present at low amounts in the water can build up to high levels on plastics as they are soaked up from the surrounding sea. See The Cotton Bud Project for further details.

[5]. 2017 Great British Beach Clean Report (Marine Conservation Society)   https://mcsuk.org/clean-seas/great-british-beach-clean-2017-report

The issue and solution

Ahead of the UN environment summit in Nairobi the UN Oceans Chief, Lisa Svensson, said ‘This [plastic pollution] is a planetary crisis’[1]. We feel the same, and over the past 5 years, staff at Fidra have been working with industry to help solve one part of this global issue; the pollution of single-use plastic cotton buds. As the 8th most common piece of plastic pollution found on our beaches[2] we realised that plastic cotton buds were an unnecessary use of this convenient but environmentally damaging product. Sadly, joining the thousands of sanitary products flushed down toilets every day, these cotton buds find their way into our oceans through sewage systems and waterways. One solution; to change the material used for these everyday items. Fidra worked with industry to float this idea and encourage the transition from plastic to paper stems. Success came when Johnson & Johnson ltd were the first manufacturer to work alongside Fidra and commit to this change.

A step forward

Plastics are currently very much on the public’s agenda. Fidra’s work, supported by our partners and the retailers who have already changed, led to the Scottish Government announcing plans to introduce a ban on the manufacture and sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds in Scotland in January 2018. Upon this announcement, Fidra sprang into action and contacted charities, companies and individuals to rally support as well as providing back ground information through the Cotton Bud Project. When the response report was released it showed 99.4% of respondents supported a ban on plastic stemmed cotton buds, including Boots UK and Waitrose[3]. With over 800 responses, from concerned individuals and environmental charities to industry leaders this was an extremely positive result.

More success

From the Cotton Bud Project’s beginnings on a beach in East Lothian, Scotland, to the announcement in April 2018 that the UK government plans to ban the sale and manufacture of single use plastic stemmed cotton buds[4], this cooperation and discussion between Fidra and industry has proved key in showing that positive change is possible in the commercial environment. Now, encouraged and support by the Cotton Bud Project, supermarkets and industry leaders are switching plastic for paper. Michael Harris from Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd commented on the decision after working alongside our team:

 

“It’s a long and complex process to change consumer behaviour so as not to flush cotton buds. A short term solution was needed. We found that a stem made from paper works exactly the same as plastic. There is no loss of performance or customer satisfaction with a cotton bud product if the stem is changes from plastic to paper. Consequently,  we arrived at the conclusion that whilst cotton buds shouldn’t be being flushed, they will continue to be flushed - at least in the short term. Changing to a paper stem would make the stem biodegradable and avoid persistent plastic stems remaining in the environment.”

  • Michael Harris | Category Technical Manager | Household & Pet
    Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd 

 

We believe that this is clear evidence that working with industry to find solutions will influence change on a larger scale and help stem (no pun intended) the plastic tide.

Find out more about how Fidra’s Cotton Bud Project helped solve this problem over on our main site here.

 

Cotton buds Archerfield East Lothian 2016 300x169 

 

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42225915

[2] https://www.mcsuk.org/media/GBBC_2017_Report.pdf

[3] https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00538819.pdf

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43817287

Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies has been caring for consumers around the world for more than 130 years. We are deeply committed to the health of people and the environment, and safety is a priority for every product we make, earning the trust of generations worldwide.  

Johnson & Johnson Ltd, the UK-based affiliate of our company, recognises that marine litter is an issue and we fully support efforts to limit environmental damage. We also back Fidra’s efforts to raise awareness and drive education on this topic. We believe that human health and the health of our planet are inextricably linked.

Paper Cotton Buds Photo by Emma Martin PhotographyAcross Europe, we have eliminated plastic sticks in cotton buds and converted them to paper. We think that two key challenges for retailers looking to make this switch are pricing and consumer expectations. One of the initial steps that we took in the transition was to ensure cost containment, so that the added production costs would not be passed on to the consumer. We also needed to find an alternative that maintained the consumer experience in terms of quality and performance. For example, the sturdiness and the pliability of the 100% paper stick was a technical obstacle to overcome, in order to provide our consumers with an effective product.  

When the first products hit the shelves, we did get some feedback that the paper sticks were not as sturdy as the plastic ones. However when we explained the reason for the change, most consumers understood. 

We partnered with Fidra to announce the news of our conversion from plastic to paper sticks in the UK in March 2016. In April 2017, we saw the first paper sticks arrive on retailer shelves in the UK. This was an exciting moment for us, for Fidra and for our consumers!

On 19th April 2018, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to ban items including plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers, in an effort to reduce plastic waste, which she described as: “one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world". We are immensely proud to have been one of the first companies in the UK to provide 100% paper sticks. 

This move will help to avoid the build-up of plastics in the marine environment in case they are inadvertently discarded in the toilet or improperly disposed of. We also continue to champion thoughtful and environmentally responsible behaviour, encouraging consumers to “bag it and bin it, don’t flush it,” with labels on our packaging.

 

Cotton buds 

Scottish Government: Plastic Cotton Bud Consultation

The Scottish Government has now published a response report following its public consultation to ban the sale and manufacture of plastic stemmed cotton buds in Scotland. We were really encouraged to see that the vast majority of respondents, both individuals and organisations, supported the proposal to introduce a ban. Fidra believes a ban is the right course of action for the following reasons:

Plastic cotton buds impact our marine environment 

  • There are, on average, 27 cotton buds for every 100 meters of UK beach. 
  • Plastic cotton buds are not only aesthetically undesirable, being found on some of the UK’s most beautiful and iconic beaches, they also pose a significant threat to marine life. Find out here why they are risky eating for wildlife and what toxic concentrations they accumulate.  

Campaigns to promote behaviour change have failed to stop the incorrect disposal of these items down toilets in the long term.  

  • While cotton buds should never be flushed, effectiveness of public awareness campaigns (such as Don’t Flush It messages) have been limited in their success.  Improving appropriate disposal of cotton buds is imperative, but changing the material used to produce them, makes them far less likely to escape through waste water systems and has to potential to reduce an unnecessary and inappropriate use of plastic material. Find out more about how cotton buds end up on our beaches

Alternatives are available  

  • There already exists a fully biodegradable and readily available alternative to plastic stemmed cotton buds, in this case, stems made from FSC Certified paper. 
  • Indeed, many of the UK’s largest retailers are now using paper alternatives. For example, the UK-based company Polyco, produces Waitrose’s FSC-certified paper stemmed cotton buds. 

Industry has shown change is possible 

  • Johnson & Johnson Ltd, the UK market leader for cotton buds was the first manufacturer to agree to replace their brand-defining blue plastic cotton bud stems with paper. They publicly announced this in March 2016 at the same time as the retailer Waitrose made the same commitment.
  • Other major UK retailers have also change their sourcing and/or production (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons and Boots UK). For a list of retailers and manufactures that have changed from supplying plastic stemmed cotton buds to biodegradable alternatives, see the Good Buddy page on our website. 

Cotton buds 

 

UK Government announces a consultation to ban plastic stemmed cotton buds

 

We are very encouraged by the UK Government's decision to launch a consultation to ban the sale and manufacture of plastic stemmed cotton buds. The announcement illustrates the Government's continued commitment to tackle the pressing problem of plastic pollution.

A Johnson & Johnson Ltd spokesperson stated:

“We fully support the proposal to reduce the use of plastics in cotton buds in the UK. We recognise that our products have an environmental footprint. That’s why we worked with Fidra last year to remove the plastic sticks from our cotton buds and replace them with 100% paper instead. One year later we are immensely proud to have been one of the first companies in the UK to transition away from plastic stems.”

This decision follows the Scottish Government announcement in January that they intend to ban the sale and manufacture of plastic stemmed cotton buds. The consultation on this proposal will be launched at the end of April, and we highly encourage people to respond.

Alasdair Neilson from Fidra, the environmental charity that runs the Cotton Bud Project commented:

"We are delighted to hear this news. Plastic cotton bud stems are found littering beaches across the UK. Industry leaders, like Johnson & Johnson, have lead the way and have shown that change is possible. The UK Government's announcement is a small but significant step in the fight against plastic pollution.”

Cotton buds are one of the top ten most common litter items found blighting UK beaches. They find their way to sea when mistakenly flushed into the sewage system. The Marine Conservation Society's 2017 Great British Beach Clean survey found, on average, 26.9 cotton buds for every 100m of British beach.

In addition to being aesthetically displeasing, plastic cotton bud stems also pose a significant threat to marine life. The risk of plastic debris to animals through ingestion is well documented, and cotton buds have been found in the digestive systems of seabirds and turtles. Whether paper or plastic-stemmed, cotton buds should never be flushed, but the impact of paper stems will be much lower if they do find their way to the sea.

Fidra looks forward to working with industry and the UK Government throughout the consultation process.

Monday, 12 March 2018 13:47

Fidra on Countryfile

Countryfile 

 

Fidra Featured on Countryfile

We were delighted to be featured on a special "Lothians and the Borders" episode of Countryfile last week. The episode focused on life in the Lothians and featured many of our favourite east Lothian haunts.

Project Manager Sarah Archer and Research Officer Clare Cavers took Countryfile's Annita Rani for a walk along Gullane beach. Walking down Gullane's beautiful sand dunes, Annita said: "Just looking at it, it seems like a pristine beach." However, all too soon, they were greeted with the sight of cotton buds washed up on the shoreline. Annita was shocked at how many they found and the impact they were having on the environment, remarking: "In hundreds of years, these are going to be in our ecosystem."

Annita praised Fidra's work with the Scottish Government, who, in January announced, from the very same beach, legislation to ban plastic stemmed cotton buds in Scotland. You can still see the episode on the BBC iPlayer.

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