You may use them to perfect the flick of your liner, swipe away the remnants of eye make-up at the end of the day or clean up any nail polish mishaps, but as essential as they’ve become to our beauty routines cotton buds are having a detrimental impact on our environment and ecosystems.
In a renewed attempt to curb the damage, today a ban on supplying plastic-stemmed cotton buds, as well as plastic straws and stirrers, has come into force in England, marking yet another major step in the government’s fight against single-use plastic waste.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow says, “People often throw away a cotton bud without thinking of the consequences – but single-use plastics cause real devastation to our natural environment. The ban on plastic-stemmed cotton buds – along with straws and drinks stirrers – is just the latest step in our battle against plastic pollution and follows on from our ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels.
“These changes in the law are boosted by the fact consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the sustainability of the beauty and cosmetic products they buy. Together we can reduce our single-plastic usage and protect our precious planet.”
A recent study conducted by sustainable cult beauty brand Face Halo found that 64 per cent of British women use cotton buds to remove their makeup precisely, while each year, an estimated 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used in England, which ultimately find their way into landfills, beaches and seas, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife once they enter the animal food chain. In 2017, the Marine Conservation Society found an average of 31 cotton bud sticks per 100 metres of beach. This is in addition to the 4.8-12.7 million tonnes of plastic that enters the ocean globally each year.
The new supply ban on plastic-stemmed cotton buds brings the government another step forward in its goal of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste, which is being propelled further by the 5p charge on single-use plastic bags, the existing ban on microbeads and building plans for a deposit return scheme to help drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers.
Now that access to the plastic variation of this staple beauty tool is changing, and rightfully so, it’s high time to consider the sustainable alternatives – think bamboo, silicone and beyond. Here’s our favourite, guilt-free picks…
Eco-Friendly Socially Responsible Bamboo Cotton Swabs, £1.99, The Humble Bamboo Co