Did you know that cotton buds were originally designed for babies? One day, Leo Gerstenzang (the original founder of these buds) saw his wife tying cotton wads to wooden toothpicks to clean their daughter’s ears. He improvised upon this idea and launched ready-to-use and safer cotton swabs under the brand name ‘Baby Gays’ in 1923.
Over the years, these ear cleaning buds went through different product designs before evolving into the plastic variety that we get today. This is an undesirable development, though. Leo Gerstenzang used wooden sticks to wrap the cotton on the tips. How did we end up with plastic-stemmed buds that are dangerous for our environment?
Unfortunately, we can’t imagine our lives without this small but useful invention! They are a staple item in our homes; we have been using them since childhood. Be it for cleaning ears, applying and removing makeup, or creating art and craft items, we always keep these buds handy. So, we have to consider eco-friendly alternatives for ear buds for ear cleaning.
Recent facts about cotton buds
The annual product of plastic-stemmed buds is estimated at nearly 1.5 billion, and an average person disposes of around 415 buds every year. Imagine the amount of plastic waste we are generating through these little cotton sticks.
It is not surprising that many countries are banning conventional cotton buds. For example, England has already implemented strict measures on their usage for the last two years. In fact, UK’s two largest supermarkets – Tesco and Sainsbury replaced plastic stems of buds with paper way back in 2017! Though earbuds are among 12 single-use plastic items banned by India from July 1, 2022, they are still widely available.
Ill-effects of use of cotton buds made from plastic
Let’s take a look at how these buds adversely impact our surroundings. We also bring you some staggering statistics to drive home our point.
1. Water pollution
A photo of a seahorse swimming with a thrown-away cotton swab went viral in 2017 and earned Justin Hofman the award of ‘wildlife photographer of the year’. But this photo was a stark reminder of plastic pollution. At least 14 million tons of plastic find its way to oceans every year and it makes up for 80% of all marine debris.
The plastic-stemmed cotton buds not only pollute our water bodies but also endanger the habitat of marine creatures. When these creatures are consumed as seafood, they further threaten the health and safety of humans.
2. Land pollution
The plastic-based ear cleaning buds end up in our landfills through garbage or sewage pipelines, leading to land pollution. With land pollution increasing at an alarming rate, we are pretty much risking our living conditions.
Moreover, plastic also negatively impacts the soil and agricultural activities. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report, the toxic chemicals from plastic can reduce agricultural yields, harm earthworms and indirectly work their way up the food chain to put human health at risk.
3. High water consumption
Around two-thirds of the world’s population experience severe water scarcity for at least one month every year as reported by UNICEF. Do you want to put yourself and the future generation in this situation? If not, you need to understand the gravity of water impact from plastic products, including earbuds for ear cleaning.
One pound (about 450 grams) of plastic has a water footprint of 28 gallons (about 106 litres) in terms of water it uses in production and the water pollution it creates! Does it make sense to waste water on plastic when humans are in dire need of it?
Bamboo and paper ear buds – The green swap
Eco-friendly earbuds are emerging as a popular substitute for conventional ones. The stems of these buds are either made from paper or bamboo, both of which are sourced from natural resources. Here are some reasons why bamboo ear buds are superior to the plastic variant:
1. Zero dependence on fossil fuels for production
Plastic needs chemicals obtained from fossil fuels which are depleting fast due to high demand. Moreover, the fossil fuel shortage is causing a steep spike in their prices which in turn increases the prices of plastic-made ear cleaning buds also.
Paper is made from wood pulp extracted from softwood and hardwood trees. With massive efforts on tree conservation and afforestation across the globe, there is a huge possibility of an ample supply of wood pulp.
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing grass species in the world. It can be cultivated easily in most parts of the world. So, it makes a vital renewable source.
2. Guilt-free disposal
We have already highlighted the nuisance plastic disposal can create for the earth. There is hardly any such challenge associated with paper or bamboo buds.
You can recycle paper from cotton buds into packing frills and fillers or art and craft projects. You can toss the bamboo sticks in a compost bin and let them return to the natural cycle of the plant ecosystem.
3. Easy biodegradability
Plastic cotton swabs can take anywhere between 20 and 500 years to decompose.
On the contrary, paper and bamboo ear buds take much lesser time to decompose. Paper can naturally and harmlessly degrade in 2-6 weeks. Bamboo is 100% biodegradable! You can throw them away and let them break down naturally. Another option is to burn the bamboo as it burns faster than wood without emitting heat or fumes.
Eco-friendly cotton buds from Beco
At Beco, we believe that nature is more powerful than most manmade things. We are striving hard towards minimising the carbon footprint on our planet. Hence, we use only natural bio-enzymes, fibres and elements in all our products, including ear buds for ear cleaning.
Our cotton buds are completely plastic-free. They have ecological and sturdy paper stems. Since they contain no chemicals, they are also safe for babies and pets. We have also paid close attention to the quality of cotton for the tips. We use highly absorbent 100% pure and natural virgin cotton. This means our ear cleaning buds are very safe to clean your ear canals and areas around the nose, eyes and naval as well as for other applications.
Cotton swabs are integral to our personal hygiene and first aid kits. However, their plastic stems have a major negative bearing on the elements of our nature. It’s our civic duty to become eco-warriors and prevent plastic pollution. A switch to sustainable buds is one step closer in this direction.
Shop for paper and bamboo cotton buds on the Beco website!
1. Are eco-friendly cotton buds more expensive than conventional ones?
No. Conventional buds from reputed brands cost around Rs.110 for a pack of 200 sticks. Eco-friendly buds are available at a much lesser price for the same pack as they are made from renewable sources of energy.
2. Are eco-friendly cotton buds as effective as conventional plastic ones in cleaning ears or applying cosmetics?
Being made from natural ingredients, eco-friendly buds are more effective and safer for any application.