Why are they not recycled?

  • Cotton buds are often not labelled to show the type of plastic they are made of.

  • The sticks are also small, narrow and the hygienic issues that come with it restrict its recyclability.

Key Findings from The Cotton Bud Project

  • Cotton bud pollution is reported globally ( e.g. Cotton buds are a top 10 item found on UK beach cleanups).

  • There is a widespread incorrect disposal method, where the sticks are flushed away instead of being thrown into the bin. This has led to them to be a well-documented constituent of sewage-related debris, and buds more than often flush into the ocean.

  • Their buoyancy and narrowness of the sticks mean that they are not retained by the sewage screens of wastewater systems.

  • Just like other plastics, it persists in the environment.

Visit the Cotton Bud Project here.

What now?

  • Don't flush it down, throw it in the bin.

  • Consider cotton buds with a wood stick, much similar to matches.

  • Woolworths has released its plastic-free earbuds that are made from paper.

Other non-recyclables like cotton balls, pads and wet wipes are also wet waste since they are mostly used for bodily fluids, so be sure to throw them in the bin.