Are Cotton Buds Recyclable?

plastic free cotton buds

Cotton Buds

If you are aiming to do your best for the environment, what you do with your waste, and being aware of how much waste you create in the first place, is one of the best places to start. Cotton buds are a staple in many households often being used on a daily basis. So what do you do with them when you are done?

First things first, please donít flush them down the toilet as they can both cause blockages and cause damage to the environment.

Cotton buds with plastic stems have now been banned, with the ban on supply coming into force on the 20th October 2020 meaning you should no longer be finding them in the shops. The alternatives are those with paper, wooden or bamboo stems.

However, even these eco-friendly versions generally canít be recycled and still need to be disposed of in the bin.

Are Eco-Friendly Cotton Buds Biodegradable

So, if we canít recycle cotton buds is there another alternative to putting them in the bin?

Here the answer gets a bit more complicated as it depends on exactly what your cotton bud is made of, but, generally if the cotton bud has a paper, wooden or bamboo stem, and the cotton swab part is made of 100% cotton then it will be biodegradable and you should be able to put it in the compost.

Of course there are a few caveats to this advice, you donít want to compost cotton buds that have been soaked in chemicals such as nail polish remover, a bit of ear wax is fine for the compost but harsh chemicals are certainly best avoided.

If you donít compost at home for use in the garden then you may be able to dispose of cotton buds in your food waste bin. Again you need to make sure the stems are biodegradable, paper/card, wood or bamboo and that the tips are 100% cotton, and that they have not been soaked in any nasty chemicals. You should check with your local council to see if they will accept cotton buds in your food waste.

Think About the Packaging

When you are buying cotton buds it isnít just the buds themselves you need to think about. You should also consider the packaging. While cotton buds with plastic stems are now banned in England there is not a ban on plastic packaging and so many brands still come in a plastic tub, or a tub with a plastic lid.

Thankfully many more eco-conscious brands make bamboo stemmed cotton buds that come in recycled cardboard packaging that can either be recycled again in your kerbside recycling or placed in your compost.


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