SIGN THE PETITION
I am asking UK retailers to stop making plastic cotton buds by the end of 2017.
ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN
**CAMPAIGN UPDATE** We switched campaigning platforms to work with 38 Degrees Campaigns by You - and over 150,000 of us got behind this campaign! You can still sign here to keep up the pressure on Wilko to make the switch, along with EIGHT other major UK retailers.
** Thank-you to Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Lidl, Boots and Superdrug for listening ... and acting! **
Marine plastic pollution is damaging the health of our oceans. From plankton to pilot whales, algae to albatross — no ocean life remains free from the effects of plastic waste … it’s even found in the seafood we eat. We might not think that our everyday actions can make a difference. But they do.
Take cotton buds for example. Their stems are made from plastic. And here in the UK we’re flushing them down the loo … in their millions. Whilst getting people to stop flushing them is the ideal outcome, the perception of the loo as a ‘wet bin’ just doesn’t seem to go away. IT'S TIME TO SWITCH THE STICK.￼
During heavy rainfall our sewers can overflow into our waterways and rivers, meaning anything we flush can get washed out to sea. Being so small, cotton bud stems can squeeze through sewage filters — which is why they make up over 60% of all sewage related beach litter (MCS, 2015).
There are millions of cotton bud sticks littering our beaches and riverbanks … and yet there’s a natural, affordable alternative; paper! Switch the Stick is City to Sea’s campaign to stop this form of marine plastic pollution, by encouraging consumers (that’s you!) to change their buying habits and switch from plastic to paper cotton buds and to put pressure on our major UK retailers and manufacturers to stop the production of plastic cotton buds and switch to paper-stems.
Even paper stem cotton buds shouldn’t be flushed down the loo. But we'd like manufacturers to take responsibility for the fact that too many of us do – and that plastic cotton buds are harmful to wildlife and the marine environment. So please sign the pledge. At the end of September, City to Sea founder Natalie Fee will meet with the retailers and MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD!
Spread the word … and let’s stick it to plastic cotton bud pollution!
We've got four films planned for Switch the Stick. Keep an eye out for them here - and please share them on social media!
HOW TO SPREAD THE WORD
We need to send a clear message to the retailers that they're losing your plastic cotton bud business, fast - so please share this site far and wide. THANKS!
Eight UK Retailers Agree to Switch the Stick!
It's worked! After more than 150,000 of you signed our petition over at 38 Degrees, eight major retailers have now agreed to phase out plastic cotton buds by the end of 2017 following concern over the number that are ending up on our beaches.
Two environmental organisations, City to Sea (us!) and Fidra, have been calling for retailers to phase out plastic-stemmed cotton and switch to paper to cut down the amount of plastic ending up on our beaches and in our rivers. Our 'Switch the Stick' campaign has also been supported by over 150,000 members of 38 Degrees. To the delight of all, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, BootsUK, Lidl and Superdrug have communicated their commitment to ensure their own label cotton bud products will be made with paper stems by the end of 2017.
A Tesco’s spokesperson commented: “We’re committed to ensuring all of our own label cotton bud products will be made with paper stems, and will do this by the end of 2017.”
Similarly, a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We have been working hard to improve this product. Our new cotton buds, with 100% biodegradable stems, will be available before the end of 2017.”
An Asda spokesperson said: “This is an area where we’re working hard to make a difference and we’re pleased to confirm that all our own brand cotton buds products will be made with paper stems by 2017.”
And an Aldi spokesperson said: "As a responsible retailer, we are committed to removing plastic from our cotton buds by the end of 2017.”
Natalie Fee, City to Sea founder: “We’re delighted with the commitment from so many major supermarkets to ‘Switch the Stick’ from plastic to paper stem buds. Whilst they still shouldn’t be flushed, this move will stop millions of plastic stems ending up in the marine environment each year and is a huge win in the fight against marine plastic pollution.”
Dr Clare Cavers, Research Officer from Fidra's Cotton Bud Project: “Johnson & Johnson and Waitrose pledged to change to paper cotton buds in Spring this year, and we are very pleased to see other retailers following their lead. Plastic pollution in our seas is a major problem, so by making this positive change, we are a step closer to cleaner oceans.”
Cotton buds collected along the River Avon, Bristol. © City to Sea
Plastic cotton bud stems are the number one item of plastic, sewage-related debris on our beaches and rivers  – yet UK retailers could help prevent this by switching the stick from plastic to paper – and over 135,000 people have shown their support to the cause by signing up to City to Sea's campaign on the 38 Degrees website.
In the marine environment, plastics can be eaten by marine life, often with fatal consequences. Plastic is found in the stomachs of Loggerhead Turtles, seabirds and many species of UK-caught fish. And pieces that don't get eaten break down into micro-plastics, forming part of a dangerous plastic smog in our seas.
The 38 Degrees petition has received over 150,000 signatures in support of the City to Sea campaign. Trish Murray, campaigner at 38 Degrees, added: “The public’s overwhelming support for this campaign shows that there is a real desire for retailers to provide environmentally sound alternatives.’ It’s great news that six supermarkets in the UK have made a commitment this week following Natalie’s campaign and the support of thousands of 38 Degrees members. The huge petition has sent a clear message to all shops - customers expect them to switch to paper cotton buds to protect our wildlife and our seas.”
© City to Sea
Remaining retailers currently reviewing their policies on cotton buds include Wilko (the Co-op, M&S and Waitrose are the only retailers to currently sell paper-stem buds). However, smaller retailers need to get on board, offer cardboard products and promote them over and above plastic stemmed cotton buds.  Beachwatch Report 2015, Marine Conservation Society.
CITY TO SEA'S #SWITCHTHESTICK CAMPAIGN OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES
WAITROSE PLEDGES TO CHANGE THE STEMS OF COTTON BUDS FROM PLASTIC TO PAPER IN A DRIVE AGAINST POLLUTION AND WASTE
JOHNSON & JOHNSON SAYS IT WILL STOP PRODUCING PLASTIC COTTON BUD STICKS BY THE END OF 2016
GREEN PARTY LEADER'S SUPPORT FOR #SWITCHTHESTICK
WHERE TO BUY PAPER COTTON BUDS
For now you can buy own-brand, fairtrade paper-stem cotton buds from Marks and Spencers, or 'Simply Gentle' paper-stem buds from John Lewis or your local Health Food shop.
If you'd like to buy some now, follow these links:
Simply Gentle Organic Cotton - Pack of 200 Buds Marks and Spencer Fair Trade Cotton Buds