Following backlash concerning plastic waste buildup in beaches and oceans, Scotland is now the first country in the United Kingdom to officially ban the manufacture, supply and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, commonly known by the brand name of Q-tips. Environmentalists and conservationists are hailing the change as wonderful news for wildlife and ecosystems.
Before the new ban came into effect, several cosmetic giants already made the switch to manufacturing more biodegradable alternatives, like paper-stemmed versions. For instance, pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson made the switch two years ago.
Speaking about the new legislation, Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham shared that she is “proud the Scottish government has become the first U.K. administration to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds. Single-use plastic products are not only wasteful but generate unnecessary litter that blights our beautiful beaches and green spaces while threatening our wildlife on land and at sea.”
The Marine Conservation Society has indicated that plastic-stemmed cotton swabs have been pervasively littering coastal regions and damaging marine ecology, often disconcertingly found in the intestines of seabird, mammal, fish and turtle populations. In the U.K. alone, estimated consumption of the plastic-stemmed cotton buds is in excess of 1.8 million.
Besides that, the journal Science Advances has cited that humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics since the early 1950s. Sadly, plastic’s durability wreaks environmental havoc, and current recycling systems are not able to keep up with plastic pollution. Even the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, has reported that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, if plastic production rates continue.
It is hoped that the new ban will promote more useful regulation to protect the environment while simultaneously affecting consumer behaviors so that the public is better informed about best practices where single-use plastic is concerned.
Emma Burlow, Head of Circular Economy at Resource Futures, said that the ban is not only positive for the environment but also for both the economy and job creation. “Banning a product stimulates innovation and that leads to opportunity,” Burlow said.
This new ban plays a huge role in the current struggle against ocean pollution, opening up further environmental action and reforms to the U.K.’s resource and waste management system. By 2020, the U.K. is also expected to ban single-use plastic drink straws and single-use plastic stirrers to curtail plastic waste.
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