22 October 2020

Cotton Bud, Stirrers and Plastic Straw Ban

Read Time: 4 mins

As of the 1st of October 2020, plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds will be banned in the UK. This means you shouldn’t be able to obtain these items at bars, cafes, restaurants or purchase them in shops. Statistics provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show that 316 million stirrers, 1.8 billion cotton buds and a staggering 4.7 billion straws are used every year. With the UK population standing at 66 million that’s around 70 straws per head. Certain cases such as medical use and individuals with disabilities will be exempt from this swab and plastic straw ban.

plastic cup

Single-use Plastic Ban in Other Countries

Large economies like the US, Europe and China are substantial contributors to the world’s plastic problems. In America, eight states including California and New York have banned single-use plastic bags. The Chinese Government aims to eradicate and ban all plastic bags from their towns and cities by 2025. The EU are looking to lead the way with their single-use plastics directive, which is targeting 10 specific items.

These are:

food containers


plastic cotton buds

cutlery and plates

balloon and balloon sticks

packets and wrappers


cigarette filters

sanitary items

plastic bags

fishing gear

Substitutes – Bamboo Cotton Buds

Some of you reading this may be starting to worry that you won’t be able to get your hands on cotton buds at all anymore. You’ll be glad to hear that cotton buds that are made with biodegradable materials can still be sold. The ban on plastics but must be music to the ears of companies like Bambaw who produce bamboo cotton buds. Cotton buds that don’t use any plastic and can degrade naturally are exempt from the ear bud ban. With these products, the guilty pleasure of cleaning your ears with a cotton bud just got considerably less guilty.


Reusable Cotton Buds

There are also companies who are taking the reusable approach to cotton buds. Last Object offer their Last Swab which is a reusable swab which you can clean and use to replace up to 1000 cotton swabs. It comes in a carry case which is made using corn to make it biodegradable. The toughest crowd to please is the beauty community who regularly use cotton buds to achieve pinpoint accuracy when applying makeup. Multiple influencers within the scene have reviewed and tested the product with many claiming that it is a great alternative to the typical cotton bud.

Plastic Straw Substitutes

Bamboo can be used again to help solve the problem of plastic straws. Once used, a bamboo straw can be cut up and scattered in your garden where it will degrade naturally in 4 to 6 months. On the other hand, a plastic straw will never degrade naturally and could potentially leave a stain on the planet forever.


If you are one of those people who has a serious aversion to paper straws in restaurants and bars, you can always carry a metal straw with you. This way you don’t have to annoy everyone within earshot with incessant complaints of “these paper straws don’t last 10 seconds!”.

The Reaction to the Swab and Plastic Straw Ban

Many believe that bans on these items are a step in the right direction but that they don’t go far enough. This ban was already postponed for 6 months and some feel it has been pushed out to appease green activists and the public while the real problems remain at large. We’ve written before about how 75% of rubbish is produced by drinking on the go. Even with the worldwide efforts to reduce plastic, studies performed by the University of Georgia predict that the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean could double by the year 2025. The reaction on social media was generally warm with the usual paper straw haters sprinkled in.

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