15th October 2019

Scotland bans the sale of plastic cotton buds

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Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban the sale of plastic cotton buds, the Scottish Government has announced.

The plastic-stemmed buds, used for a variety of cosmetic purposes, are a big polluter on beaches, with 150,000 removed from Scottish beaches by Marine Conservation Society volunteers over the last 25 years.

The action to put an end to single-use plastics forms part of a commitment to meet or exceed the standards set out in the EU single-use Plastics Directive. Other items including cutlery, plates and food and drink containers made of expanded polystyrene will be banned or restricted by July 2021.

In addition, Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme aims to collect 90 per cent of aluminium and steel cans, glass and plastic bottles once it is in operation.

Roseanna Cunningham, environment secretary, said: “I am proud that the Scottish Government has become the first UK administration to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds, with Regulations laid in Parliament on 2 September now coming into force.

“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.

“This ban builds on work already underway to address Scotland’s throw-away culture, and we will continue to take action on other problematic items in the coming years as part of our efforts to reduce harmful plastics and single-use items, protect our environment and develop a thriving circular economy.

“We are facing a global climate emergency, and must all work together to reduce, reuse and recycle to ensure a sustainable future for the current and next generation.”

Catherine Gemmell, Scotland conservation officer for the Marine Conservation Society, said: “This ban coming into force is a fantastic win for our seas and wildlife. We look forward to more ambitious action from the Scottish Government and to working with them on further actions needed to stop the plastic tide.”

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This decisive action is great news for the environment and for wildlife. Cotton buds are a very visible sign of our hugely wasteful habits, turning up on beaches across the globe. Manufacturers and supermarkets are already moving in the right direction, but this single measure will guarantee that Scotland cuts its contribution to marine plastic pollution in half.

“Following the plastic bag charge and the announcement of a deposit and return scheme for drinks’ bottles and cans, this is another good step on the way to a society which uses resources more sensibly. We look forward to further initiatives when the Government’s promised new group on single-use plastic containers, such as coffee cups, reports its work.”