Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies - UK Cotton Bud Case Study

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.


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