At this point, cotton swabs have become a household staple. People use them for cleaning out their ears, removing makeup, and even cleaning. But with the rising popularity of sustainability, people are becoming more and more concerned about their eco-friendliness.
I mean, are they even biodegradable? Can you compost them?
Stay tuned for these answers and so much more!
Are cotton swabs biodegradable or compostable?
Since most cotton swabs are made of plastic and cotton, they are neither biodegradable nor compostable. And they can’t even be recycled.
Luckily, in recent years, some manufacturers have created biodegradable alternatives using paper or bamboo instead of plastic.
Are cotton swabs sustainable?
For the most part, cotton swabs aren’t sustainable, especially traditional plastic-stemmed ones.
For one, they contribute to ocean pollution – their plastic stems make their way to oceans and contribute to the plastic pollution there. In fact, cotton swabs account for around 1% to 6% of the plastic found in the oceans.
Also, they contribute to fossil fuel demand. And the more these fuels are extracted, transported, refined, and processed, the more harmful emissions are released.
Finally, producing these swabs requires a lot of water; to grow the cotton and process the plastic.
While 1 pound of plastic requires 22 gallons of water, a kilogram of cotton needs 20,000 liters of water. This means that even if you replace the plastic stem of a swab with bamboo, the cotton still demands a lot of water.
And let’s not even get into how much land cotton growing requires. Ultimately, this is what makes cotton swabs unsustainable.
Are there reusable options?
If you are looking to take things a notch higher than biodegradable cotton swabs, we have some news for you – there is a reusable option, Last Object’s LastSwab.
Made from polypropylene, these swabs are soft and can be used for months.
Designed to be the last swab you will ever need, a single LastSwab is estimated to replace around 1000 single-use ones.
What’s more, these swabs are soft, flexible, and easy to clean. You can either wash them by hand with soap and water or toss them in the dishwasher.
And they come in two versions – the LastSwab Original and the LastSwab beauty.
The former is designed for general uses like ear cleaning while the latter is suitable for beauty purposes like cleaning up a smoky eyeliner.
Whichever version you buy though, you will get a biodegradable carrying case with it.
Get the most sustainable option you can afford
Truth be told, the LastSwab is much more expensive than even the bamboo ones. So it is understandable if you can’t invest in them right now.
So get the best you can within your means, be it paper or bamboo cotton swabs. At least you won’t be contributing to the already grueling plastic pollution crisis!