Wildlife-friendly alternatives to plastic cotton buds

Last updated: 15 March 2023

Cotton buds are one of the most problematic litter items found on beaches across the world.

Victoria has phased out problematic single-use plastics, including cotton buds with a plastic stem.

Read about the single-use plastics ban

The problem with plastic cotton buds

Plastic cotton buds are one of the most problematic litter items found on beaches across the world.

1.5 billion single-use plastic cotton buds are produced each day. Many end up in our waterways and oceans.

Plastic cotton buds break down into microplastics which can be ingested by the smallest phytoplankton through to the biggest whale. Microplastics can block digestive tracts of marine life and reduce their urge to eat, causing some species to starve and die.

Each day in Australia, 250 marine animals and more than 2,700 seabirds choke to death on the plastic polluting our oceans.

How to avoid using plastic cotton buds

There are many other options when it comes to keeping your ears clean, cleaning a cut or applying make-up.

Swap your plastic cotton buds for bamboo cotton buds

Bamboo cotton buds will do the exact same job as a plastic cotton bud but they're much better for the environment. Bamboo cotton buds are just as strong and effective as plastic cotton buds, but they can go straight into a home compost bin.

If you don’t have a compost bin at home, remember to bin the bud, never flush it. Toilet paper is the only thing that should be flushed down the toilet.

Swap your plastic cotton buds for ear wash

There are several ear washes available as an alternative to cotton buds. In fact, using a cotton tip to clean your ears can actually make things worse. Read more about the best way to keep your ears clean and healthy.

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