Why Are Cotton Buds Banned in England

Plastic stemmed cotton buds have been banned in England since the 1st of October 2020 along with single use plastic straws and plastic stirrers meaning that eco-friendly cotton buds are now the only cotton buds you can buy.

The ban was bought in as another step forward by the government to reduce plastic waste, clean up the environment and protect our oceans. It is estimated that 1.8 billion plastic stemmed cotton buds are used each year in England alone. The majority of which end up in landfill while many end up in our oceans damaging the natural environment and causing harm to ocean life.

Biodegradable stemmed cotton buds have been around for some time, and are virtually identical in look and function. The same goes for reusable straws and wooden stirrers. And yet plastic items are still being used in the billions. Banning the supply of these items will force consumers to choose environmentally friendlier solutions and move towards eliminating unnecessary plastic waste.

Simple Switches Can Make a Big Difference

It might seem like a small thing, the amount of plastic in a single straw, stirrer or cotton bud isn’t much after all, but when you are talking about billions of each every year it really makes a difference.

The Marine conservation Society's Great Annual Beach Clean has already seen a massive reduction of plastic cotton buds turning up on beaches as many companies made the switch ahead of the ban. Numbers dropped from an average of 31 sticks per 100 meters of beach in 2017, to just 8 in 2019.

This reduction is a real reminder of just how much of a difference little changes and simple switches can make when they are done on a big scale.

The Reasons Behind The Ban

The government ban on single use plastic straws, plastic drinks stirrers and plastic stemmed cotton buds is part of a wider plan to reduce plastic waste and protect the environment and our oceans for future generations.

The successful policy to charge for plastic bags will be extended to all retailers in April 2021 and the charge has been increased to 10p to further discourage single bag use. Other policies in the pipeline include a 30% tax on plastic packaging that doesn’t include at least 30% recycled content from 2022.

The UK Government was also amongst the first to ban the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products as another way to protect the oceans, viewing them as a precious resource that we have a duty to protect.

Plastic cotton buds, micro beads, plastic bags and straws all end up in our oceans causing serious harm to fish and other creatures all of which is completely avoidable if we just change our habits to take more care of the environment.


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