MacKay Hannah

Scottish Engineering Conference 2019: Supporting Scotland's engineering and manufacturing industry

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Scotland to become first UK country to ban manufacture & sale of plastic stem cotton buds

The Scottish Government has announced plans to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic stem cotton buds after the scale of the problem has been put under the spotlight. The proposals will now be put to public consultation.

Plastic cotton bud stems are consistently listed as one of the most prevalent forms of litter found on Scotland's beaches, according to environmental charity Fidra and the Marine Conservation Society. The problem stems from people flushing cotton buds down the toilet. These stems then make their way into the sea via the sewerage system. It is believed that the stems are responsible for killing millions of marine animals per year.

Many major retailers have switched to biodegradable paper-stemmed buds following campaigns however plastic ones are still on the market too.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: "Banning plastic cotton buds would be a clear sign of our ambition to address marine plastics.

"Despite various campaigns, people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets and this has to stop.

"Scotland's sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945 million litres of waste water 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, who 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."

Dr Lyndsey Dodds, WWF, added: "Cotton buds are some of the most pervasive forms of marine pollution so a ban is very welcome and a step in the right direction.

"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."


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I was keen to get a better understanding/background to the budget and this was met. Well structured event with good and knowledgeable speakers.

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Fraser of Allander Scotland's Budget Briefing, 26 September 2017

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