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Tackling Marine Litter

11th January 2018

Proposal to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic cotton buds.

Plans to introduce legislation to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds have been announced by Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

The proposals will be put to public consultation and would position Scotland as the first country in the UK to legislate against these environmentally damaging items.

Plastic cotton buds are consistently listed in the top ten forms of beach litter in surveys by the Marine Conservation Society and Scottish environmental charity Fidra has been working with industry to promote biodegradable alternatives.

Announcing the Scottish Government's latest move to tackle the main sources of marine plastic pollution, Ms Cunningham said:

"Banning plastic cotton buds would be a clear sign of our ambition to address marine plastics and demonstrate further leadership on this issue. Despite various campaigns, people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets. This has to stop.

“Scotland’s sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945 million litres 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.

“These products are completely unnecessary as biodegradable alternatives are readily available. The need for action is clear and I would encourage everyone with an interest in safeguarding our natural environment to take part in the consultation when it opens."

Alasdair Neilson project officer at Fidra which runs The Cotton Bud Project said:

“This progressive step will be welcomed by everyone who has seen cotton buds polluting our beaches and harming our wildlife. A ban would support the responsible businesses that have already removed this single-use plastic item from their shelves. Let’s hope it also marks a bigger shift in the way we use and value plastics.”

Peter Farrer, Chief Operating Officer, Scottish Water, said:“By disposing of items appropriately, the public can play a significant part in helping to reduce the amount of debris which either ends up in our sewerage network and into rivers, coastal waters and beaches.

“Changing behaviours at home, or at work, by not flushing anything other than the 3Ps - pee, poo and paper - will ultimately have a positive impact on our wider environment.”

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