7 Eco-Friendly Cotton Buds That Are The Perfect Alternatives To Plastic

by Sophie McEvoy
Vera Lair/Stocksy

Last Wednesday (May 22), the UK government made the decision to ban plastic cotton buds, straws, and stirrers, which will be brought into effect in April 2020. Despite this, it seems that brands like Johnson's are already one step ahead. I recently purchased their 200 bud pot without even realising they've already replaced the plastic stems with paper ones. The transition is as easy as that, so here's where to buy non-plastic cotton buds. And don't worry, there's plenty to choose from.

As Scottish environmental charity The Cotton Bud Project explains, if plastic cotton buds enter the sewage system after being flushed down the toilet, "they can persist indefinitely" after being broken down into smaller fragments and particles, and can "accumulate toxins from other sources of pollution in the sea, and may be eaten by a wide range of marine life." Obviously, one way to tackle this problem is to put cotton buds in the bin rather than the toilet, but another way to bypass the problem of those pesky plastic stems is by using alternative materials such as wood and paper.

Thankfully brands and their manufacturers are becoming more aware of this issue and are beginning to use these sustainable materials and trust me, you won't notice the difference.


Bamboo Cotton Buds

Produced by grassroots movement Surfers Against Sewage, the stems of these cotton buds are made from bamboo, and they come in a recyclable cardboard box. Once your done with the buds, you can dispose of them in your compost or organic waste bin thanks to them being super eco-friendly and biodegradable.


Boots Baby Cotton Buds

200 buds for just over 50p? Um, yes please. For some reason Boots baby range of buds are a little cheaper than the regular ones, but they're essentially the same product. Both have paper stems, and both contain enough buds to keep you going for a long time.


Organic Cotton Cosmetic Buds

These dual-buds have everything. Organic cotton and paper stems? Check. Recycled card packaging? Double check. The only thing missing is the price, but if The Body Shop's Organic Cotton Rounds are anything to go by, these buds are most probably around the £2.50 mark.


Eeears Resuable Ear Cleaner

If you use cotton buds to clean your ears, this may be the product for you. Made from 100 per cent silicon, this reusable product was conceived by French start-up Eeears in 2017. By twisting the spiralled head in the "cartilaginous part of the ear canal," this bud lets you clean unwanted wax out of your ears without the risk of injuring your ear drum. To use again, all you gotta do it is wash it with water and you're good to go.

Quick note — you should always be wary of sticking things in your ear, as it can cause damage. So, proceed with caution.


Johnson's Cotton Buds

Featured as one of The Cotton Project's 'Good Buddy List', Johnson's made the change from plastic to paper in 2017 after pledging to "transition from their iconic blue plastic cotton buds to paper stems" in 2016.


Panda Stix Bamboo Cotton Buds

Made from pure cotton and organic bamboo, these buds come in an adorable cardboard box. They are similar in practice to Surfers Against Sewage, as they too are 100 per cent biodegradable and sustainable.



LastSwab's reusable cotton bud isn't yet available for purchase, but you can pre-order this amazing item thanks to the support they received from their Kickstarter campaign.

As they point out on their site, even though buds with paper and wooden stems are marginally better than plastic ones, raw materials and CO2 are still used to produce them. Instead, LastSwab is made from biodegradable material (nylon and silicon) and is designed for durability.