Johnson & Johnson paper cotton buds have arrived!

Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies have followed through on the pledge made in early 2016, to transition their iconic blue plastic cotton buds to paper stems. They will be in shops near you soon.

The new paper cotton buds arrived in the Fidra offices at the end of last week, and we are delighted to see their
pledge to change has been followed through.

Fidra 53Photo by Emma Martin Photography ©Fidra

Read more about it in today's press release from Fidra:


The Cotton Bud Tale

A modern success story that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Following productive consultation with the Scottish environmental charity Fidra, Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies made the landmark decision to transition their iconic cotton buds from plastic to paper over almost half the globe, including the whole of Europe.

The first of these new paper cotton buds will begin to appear on UK shop shelves in the next few weeks. It will be easier for consumers to actively choose a non-plastic cotton bud, and should help reduce UK beach litter. Fidra is encouraging the public to show support by visiting the Cotton Bud Project website, where they can ‘Take The Pledge’ to use cotton buds with stems made of alternative materials such as paper, not plastic.

Niamh Finan, Group Marketing Manager, JOHNSON’S®, said: “We recognise that our products have an environmental footprint, and that’s why we have actively switched our cotton buds range from plastic to a paper stick.”

Fidra 7Photo by Emma Martin Photography ©Fidra

Johnson & Johnson Ltd.’s action is a significant move. Our busy lifestyles lead us to increasingly turn to convenience goods, and the cotton bud is one of many single-use products. Instead of being disposed of with household rubbish as intended, huge numbers are flushed down toilets, reaching our beaches through the sewers. The UK’s Marine Conservation Society recorded cotton buds as the sixth most common marine litter item in 2016.

Recycling and reuse schemes are springing up to fight the damage being caused by our throwaway culture, and move us towards a more circular economy. Although the ideas of ‘reuse and recycle’ are making the future of many products much more sustainable, they will not always work. Plastic cotton buds are a part of marine litter that comes under the unattractive heading of ‘sewage related debris’. Hygiene issues and their small size make reuse or recycling impractical.

The fact that cotton buds continue to be flushed down the toilet and escape through sewage works into the environment means it remains a problem. Switching cotton bud stems from plastic to 100% paper could provide a solution to this problem, combined with campaigns to raise consumer awareness about correct disposal methods. Paper stems should not be flushed but those that do reach the sewage system will become waterlogged and settle out of wastewater, never reaching our beaches. Fidra launched its campaign in 2013 to encourage manufacturers to change from plastic to paper cotton bud sticks.

Johnson & Johnson Ltd. led the way, committing in early 2016 to transition from plastic to paper within a year. UK retailer Waitrose followed suit and has already completed the change, becoming the newest addition to The Cotton Bud Project’s Good Buddy List of friendly cotton bud brands. Waitrose estimates this change alone will save 21 tons of plastic a year. The bad news is that this is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the 4.8-12.7 million tonnes of total plastic waste that researchers calculate are entering our oceans every year, indicating there is more work to be done.

Dr Clare Cavers, Research Officer, Fidra, said: ‘We commend Johnson & Johnson for leading this change in product material, it is an important part of the solution to the growing problem of plastic pollution in our seas. A step change in consumer behaviour is needed to ensure people dispose of waste responsibly and only flush toilet paper. The message cannot be strong enough that only the three Ps (pee, toilet paper and poo) should be flushed, and anything else should go in a bin!’

Fidra 26Photo by Emma Martin Photography ©Fidra

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