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Scotland’s ban on the sale of plastic cotton buds is a major turning point in the fight against single-use plastic

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Lauren Geall
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Scotland's plastic cotton bud ban

Scotland’s ban on the sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds has been described as the “ambitious action” needed in the fight against single-use plastic pollution.

We’re all very aware of the damage single-use plastic is doing to the environment, but thanks to the work of environmental campaigners and research going on across the globe, more and more of us are aware of the impact our single-use items could be having on the world around us – and are choosing to take action by investing in eco-friendly or reusable products.

And while the power of our individual actions in curbing the impact of plastic pollution across the globe should not be underestimated, there is increasing awareness of the need for widespread governmental and industrial change to accelerate our action on the issue.

Indeed, over the last year, more and more corporations have taken it upon themselves to address this pressing issue. In June, Boots announced that it was banning plastic bags, trading the non-biodegrable material for an eco-friendly paper alternative. And at the end of August, Marriott hotels revealed they would no longer be providing toiletries in single-use bottles in their hotel rooms, in a bid to reduce waste. 

And of course, there’s no forgetting the 5p plastic bag charge introduced by the government in 2015, which caused a 47% decrease in the number of plastic bags bought from the seven main retailers in England in 2018-19. 

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But now, the Scottish government has taken this action one step further by introducing a governmental ban on single-use plastic cotton buds – a major turning point in the fight against single-use plastic.

The laws, which came into force in Scotland yesterday, ban the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton buds. The new restrictions follow concerns about the number of the plastic buds washing up on beaches across the UK.

Plastic cotton buds
Scotland's cotton bud ban: The new restrictions follow concerns about the number of the plastic buds washing up on beaches across the UK.

“Cotton buds are some of the most pervasive forms of marine pollution, so a ban is a very welcome step and one that we hope other countries will follow,” said WWF Scotland director Lang Banks. “Plastics are finding their way into the food we eat and the water we drink, so saving our oceans will require further ambitious action from governments, industry and consumers.”

A similar ban – including single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds – will come into force in the rest of the UK next April. 

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