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18 Mar

Cotton buds banned in Victoria

Ross |

On Feb 1st, 2023, the Victorian State Government introduced the SUP (Single-Use Plastics) Bans. We (Warrnambool BeachPatrol) have our own home-grown Better Buds campaign to thank for the inclusion of plastic-stemmed cotton buds in the list of SUPs to ban. We have so much to celebrate!

When we first started to raise awareness about plastic stem cotton bud marine pollution in mid 2017,

  • Nobody had heard about cotton bud marine pollution, including us!
  • Cotton Buds were not recognized by any State Government in their waste or single – use plastic policies.
  • Cotton Buds were not recognized by any environment groups lobbying on plastic pollution issues.
  • Cotton Buds were not recognized by Australian marine conservation groups as a problematic marine plastic.
  • Cotton Bud pollution was not talked about in the media.
  • There were no alternatives to plastic cotton buds in supermarkets (only health food stores)
  • Wastewater and ocean sewage outfalls were not recognized as a pathway for plastics to discharge into the ocean in Australia.
  • Flushing cotton buds down the toilet was a hidden litter issue.

Through continuing to collect data on the amount of cotton buds that were washing up on our beaches, and through lobbying the government, and industry we made some big changes.

We initiated the Better Buds campaign (Nov 2019) to stop cotton bud pollution after collecting over (now) 30,000 cotton buds off our local beaches. This campaign has had several successes,

1)Educated the public to not flush plastic down the toilet

2)Successfully urged major retailers and manufacturers of plastic cotton buds to switch to a sustainable alternative

3) Successfully lobbied the EPA to tighten the Wannon Water’s License to include this condition, “wastes including visible oil, grease, scum, litter, foam or other objectionable matter are not allowed to get offsite.” (Dec 3rd, 2019)

4) To meet community expectations & updated license conditions, Wannon Water installs a 1 mm aperture band screen to their Thunder Point sewage treatment plant in April 2020. This has resulted in a huge decrease of cotton buds and other sewage-related debris washing up. 

5)Successfully lobbied the Victorian State Government for a ban on single-use plastic stemmed cotton buds and assisted with data that resulted in the NSW State Government SUP bans to include cotton buds. 

Stopping marine pollution at its source will significantly reduce marine debris now and into the future. Our successful Better Buds campaign stopped an estimated 8 million plastic cotton bud sticks ending up in landfill daily and tens of thousands escaping into our waterways and ocean.

Media articles:

Warrnambool Better Buds founder celebrates single-use plastics ban introduction. (The Standard)

As single-use plastic ban starts in Victoria, shoppers tackle waste, recycling issues at the source. (ABC News)


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