cotton-rod stems

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Johnson and Johnson's iconic blue cotton stems are no longer made of plastic

New laws came into effect in Scotland banning the sale and manufacture of plastic swabs.

This decision follows concerns about the number of heads washed on the beaches after being thrown into the toilet.

Most major retailers opted for paper heads in the months leading up to the post-campaign ban.

A similar ban – also including plastic shakers and straws – will come into effect in the rest of the UK next year.

Cotton swabs are regularly listed in the top 10 forms of beach wastes by the Marine Conservation Society.

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Clare Cavers


Thousands of plastic heads have stranded on the beaches around Scotland

In the UK, about 1.8 billion of them are sold each year.

In 2017, the pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson became the first major manufacturer to abandon plastic.

All major supermarkets have followed suit by choosing biodegradable paper or by committing to do so.

Waitrose would have saved 21 tons of plastic thanks to this policy.

The Scottish Environmental Association, Fidra, and its volunteers have been at the forefront of work with the industry to promote biodegradable alternatives.


Heather McFarlane of Fidra says buds are particularly harmful to wildlife

He praised the change in Scottish law as "good news" for wildlife and the environment.

Heather McFarlane, the charity's project leader, said, "We are now witnessing the implementation of this ban, which will affect these retailers and manufacturers who have failed to move from plastic to paper.

"Plastic cotton auctions have failed on the beaches for years and have become very numerous in the environment.

"They are particularly damaging to wildlife, they have been found in our native bird populations and in the intestines of turtles, you can just imagine the damage it can cause."

"Ambitious action"

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: "Cotton swabs are among the most common forms of marine pollution, so a ban is a good thing and we hope that other countries will follow.

"We know that plastic stifles our seas and devastates our wildlife, and millions of birds, fish and mammals die every year from plastics in our oceans.

"Plastics are also found in the food we eat and in the water we drink, so safeguarding our oceans will require more ambitious action from governments, industry and consumers. "