Believe it or not, there is a major difference between these Q-tips brand cotton swabs and the one in the picture below it. If you look closely you can see that the one below (albeit the cheaper version) is made of plastic, and as such are scattered across the world’s oceans and shorelines. We were shocked to find thousands of these plastic sticks littered across one tiny beach near Lagos, Portugal and we can only imagine how many more there must be on other beaches and still in the water. The Marine Conservation Society has reported that 50% of the sewage-associated waste they found in beach surveys was made up of cotton-swab sticks.
Creating garbage out of a material that lasts forever just because it is cheap is ignorant and irresponsible. Sure you can save a few pennies by buying plastic, but at $2.77 for a box of 375 Q-Tips, are you as the consumer really saving that much? The real savings is being realized by companies that manufacture these products, such as Johnson& Johnson, that enhance their profit margins by using plastic. The end result is a cheap, flimsy, and environmentally harmful product. Cotton swabs with a plastic stick are easily bent, often rendering themselves ineffective depending on your application of use. Their tip is usually smaller, making it dangerous to use in the ear. We can not think of any reason for a consumer to buy plastic swab sticks! Q-Tips brand cotton swabs are much sturdier and because Q-Tips sticks are made of cardboard, they break down in water and biodegrade over time. This is extremely important, since many people must be flushing them down the toilet in order for them to end up on beaches in such mass amounts.
The same goes for dental floss, since the most commonly used floss brands are coated in Teflon (a plastic known as PTFE which does not break down over time). Dental floss is also often flushed down the toilet, eventually arriving in the ocean and thus on beaches and in marine animals throughout the world. This is a growing problem even amongst environmentally conscious populations because small toiletry items such as cotton swabs, dental floss, and their packaging are not typically thought of as “recycling items” and they routinely get tossed in the garbage. As many as 700 million plastic floss containers are discarded each year resulting in as much as 9 million pounds of non-renewable, non-recycled floss containers and their wasteful secondary packaging such as boxes and plastic blister cards that end up in landfills each year. Look for dental floss brands featuring a biodegradable container and non-plastic floss such as Dr. Tung’s Smart Floss, available at Whole Foods and Amazon.com.
We urge you to think of other plastic household items that can be substituted with cardboard instead, such as tampon applicators, water bottles and of course plastic bags. We can make a difference at reducing plastic in the ocean by buying biodegradable products instead of plastic.
Photo Credit: Tetrapod Zoology and the Lizard and Penrose Nationnal Trust
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