Scotland could be the first country in the United Kingdom to ban plastic-stemmed cotton swabs. A new measure would ban both the manufacture and sale of the polluting items – hundreds of which were found during a recent Gullane beach clean-up. Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said, “…people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets and this has to stop. Scotland’s sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945 million liters 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.”

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Campaigners said the Scotland government plans to ban manufacture and sale of plastic-handled cotton swabs, according to The Guardian – and that move could slash the country’s contribution to ocean plastic pollution in half, according to Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon. Cunningham launched a public consultation on a ban, describing it as evidence of the government’s goal to address marine plastic.

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There have been concerns over how many of the items have washed up on beaches after people flushed them down toilets. Environmental charity Fidra recently found hundreds on the beach. The Guardian reported most large retailers have made the change to biodegradable paper-stemmed swabs, but smaller retailers still sell imported plastic-stemmed ones.

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Fidra, which is behind The Cotton Bud Project, said on the campaign website the physical structure of plastic cotton buds allows them to bypass filters at many waste treatment facilities, and they can be released into the sea with untreated sewage. There, they can “attract and concentrate background pollutants to toxic levels” and be consumed by animals who mistake them for food – causing the plastic and toxins to enter the food chain.

The Cotton Bud Project encourages people to toss cotton swabs in the trash, not the toilet, and lists brands that sell swabs with biodegradable paper stems.

Via The Guardian

Images via Depositphotos (1,2)