Where to buy paper stemmed cotton buds

Millions are flushing plastic cotton buds down the toilet. It’s time to stop.

By Caroline Wilson on October 13, 2017

Flushed down our toilets, plastic cotton bud sticks are entering the sewage system, littering our beaches and finding their way to marine environments. Once there, the sticks are ingested by marine wildlife, killing them and raising questions around the safety of our food. Yet here in the UK, millions of us are flushing these single-use plastic cotton buds down the pan on a regular basis.

We witnessed the sheer volume of this problem first hand during the Great British Beach Clean in September, where we collected over 60 cotton bud sticks in only an hour of being on the beach.

Plastic cotton buds

“Plastic cotton bud stems are on the whole composed of polypropylene, one of the most widely produced plastics. As a lighter plastic, it floats on or near the water surface. Their structure means that they pass through the majority of sewage treatment works and end up in the marine environment via regular sewage outfalls.” - The Cotton Bud Project

This problem isn’t just an eyesore on our beaches. Once in the ocean, the plastic sticks break down and are ingested by marine wildlife. Cotton bud sticks are particularly dangerous to marine animals due to the damage caused by their rigid shape and sharp edges. Thousands of marine animals are killed every year by the consumption of plastic. Plastic has already been detected in our tap water and questions are being asked about the safety of our food.

So, how can you help? There’s 2 really easy things you can do to help tackle this problem, starting today.

1. stop flushing your cotton buds down the toilet

2. buy paper stick cotton buds (point 1 still applies!)

Making this small change to your bathroom behaviour is not only a good thing for our beaches, but could also save you from a hefty plumber’s bill when the sticks create a blockage in your toilet! Think before you flush.

Next time you pick up a pack of cotton buds, refuse those with plastic sticks. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think. The whole Johnson’s range is now made with paper sticks, and Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Lidl, Boots and Superdrug have all agreed to phase out plastic cotton buds by the end of 2017*.

To make it even easier for you, we’ve put together this handy list of places you can pick up paper stick cotton buds on the high street and online. We’ll keep updating the list as and when we find new retailers. If you’re unsure, check the packaging. Refuse anything that says ‘polypropylene’ or ‘plastic’.

Know somewhere we’ve missed? Tweet us to let us know!

(Prices and retailers correct at time of publish.)

Brand Retailer Price
Boots Boots £0.59
Sainsbury’s Sainsbury’s £0.50
Johnsons Asda £0.90
Johnsons Tesco £1.00
Johnsons Superdrug £1.05
Johnsons Boots £1.05
Ellisons Ellisons £1.15
Simple Gentle Simple Gentle £2.15
Organyc Holland & Barrett £2.69


“200 cotton buds”

“200 buds, 100% Pure cotton”

“200 buds, 100% Organic Cotton tips, FSC paper stems”

“200 buds, 100% organic cotton buds, certified by Eco-Cert”

* Source: 38degrees.org.uk

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