Scotland Officially Bans Plastic Q-Tips In Latest Effort To Reduce Waste

In yet another win for the environment, Scotland just moved to ban plastic Q-tips, and manufacturers and retailers are already switching to a new material to produce the product, proving that corporations can switch to alternatives.

Single-use plastics are a plague upon our world, even being found in the most remote places on Earth as it kills wildlife.

In Scotland, one of the worst pieces of plastic trash comes in the form of Q-tips, which are often flushed down the toilet, resulting in them entering waterways and the oceans where they end up being ingested by birds, fish and other marine animals, killing them.

The Q-tips are so pervasive that the Scottish government finally banned them this week in response to the outcry, earning praise from Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

“I am proud that the Scottish Government has become the first UK administration to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds,” Cunningham said in a statement. “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,” Cunningham continued. “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.”

Indeed, plastics are produced via petroleum and other chemicals which enter the environment as plastic items slowly decompose. And even then, they end up as microplastics that enter the food chain.

World Wildlife Foundation Scotland director Lang Banks also praised the ban.

“Cotton buds are some of the most pervasive forms of marine pollution, so a ban is a very welcome step and one that we hope other countries will follow,” Banks 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.”

In response, companies that produce and sell the plastic Q-tips are already switching to a different material to produce them, such as biodegradable paper. This demonstrates that manufacturers could easily abandon plastic products in favor of sustainable and recyclable materials.

Heather McFarlane of Scottish environmental charity Fidra noted the effect the new law is having on retailers and manufacturers.

“Now we are seeing this ban come into place, that will pick up those last few retailers and manufacturers who haven’t made the switch from plastic to paper,” she said. “The plastic cotton bids have been washing up on beaches for years and they get into the environment in quite high numbers. They are particularly damaging to wildlife. They have been found in our native bird populations and in the intestines of turtles. You can just imagine the damage that can do.”

We don’t have to imagine. A baby sea turtle recently went into septic shock and died on the Florida coast after ingesting 104 pieces of plastic. The tragic death went viral and sparked increased calls to regulate the plastics industry.

It’s time for the governments of the world to take plastic pollution more seriously and do something about it. Clearly, manufacturers and retailers can switch to alternative materials. It’s just going to take laws to force them to do the right thing.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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