Government proposes cotton bud ban as part of crackdown on single-use plastics

Salons and spas could be forced to stop using plastic-stemmed cotton buds, as they become the latest focus of the Government’s crackdown on plastic waste.

Plastic-stemmed cotton buds, straws and drinks stirrers are facing a proposed ban by the UK Government, after it launched a consultation to make illegal the selling or distribution of the plastic items.

Eliminating single-use plastic items is high on the Government’s agenda as part of its 25-year Environment Plan. Plastic-stemmed cotton buds are in the top 10 most common marine litter items that get washed up on the world’s beaches. Most also use plastic-based adhesives to secure the cotton tips.

While the buds are a common consumable for salons and spas, they “cause multiple environmental harms particularly when they are discarded incorrectly, including harm to marine animals and visual pollution,” said the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’s impact assessment.

“Even if disposed of correctly plastic-stemmed cotton buds may end up in incineration, generating high carbon emissions… Intervention is required in order to shift the cotton bud market to plastic-free alternatives that already exist and decompose much quicker,” it said.

Commenting on the potential impact of the proposed ban for beauty businesses, National Beauty Federation (NBF) chief executive Hilary Hall said, "Beauty salons value the low cost and convenience of using plastic-stemmed cotton buds for treatments such as eyelash tinting. The problems of plastic pollution are now much better understood so we expect environmentally aware beauty salons will have already started switching to cotton buds with paper stems and plastic-free adhesive. This will happen more quickly, ahead of the proposed ban, if supplies are readily available from manufacturers and wholesalers and at an affordable price."

The consultation launched on October 22 and will run to December 3 2018. It can be accessed here.

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