Scotland to become first country in UK to ban sale of plastic cotton buds

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 11 January 2018 in News

With plastic stemmed cotton buds responsible for killing millions of marine animals each year, ministers today announced they would consult on plans to make Scotland the first country in the UK to ban their manufacture and sale

Image credit: Lars Plougmann

The Scottish Government will legislate to ban the sale of plastic cotton buds, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has announced.

With plastic stemmed cotton buds responsible for killing millions of marine animals each year, ministers today announced they would consult on plans to make Scotland the first country in the UK to ban their manufacture and sale.

Around five to ten per cent of marine debris surveyed in European seas is thought to be caused by cotton buds, according to research carried out by the European Commission, while a recent report from the Marine Conservation Society found that Scottish beach litter had increased seven per cent in the last year, with sewage related debris up by 40 per cent.

Cunningham said: “Banning plastic cotton buds would be a clear sign of our ambition to address marine plastics and demonstrate further leadership on this issue. Despite various campaigns, people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets. This has to stop.

“Scotland’s sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945 million litres of wastewater each day. These systems are not designed to remove small plastic items such as plastic buds which can kill marine animals and birds that swallow them.

“These products are completely unnecessary as biodegradable alternatives are readily available. The need for action is clear and I would encourage everyone with an interest in safeguarding our natural environment to take part in the consultation when it opens.”

The decision follows other measures announced in the Programme for Government aimed at tackling marine pollution, including the planned introduction of a deposit return scheme for bottles and proposals for environmental levies on single-use items such as disposable coffee cups.

Environmental groups welcomed the announcement, with Dr Lyndsey Dodds, Head of Marine Policy at WWF, calling the move “a step in the right direction”. 

She said: “We know plastic is suffocating our seas and devastating our wildlife with millions of birds, fish and mammals dying each year because of the plastic in our oceans.

“Plastics are also 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.”

The consultation is expected to open in spring 2018.

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