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How to clean up your act: the wet wipe and plastic cotton bud swaps

May 11th 2018 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment


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Non-biodegradable wet wipes and plastic cotton buds look set to be banned in a government initiative to banish plastic waste. Save face and the environment with the following beauty routine alternatives

Between David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s takeaway coffee cup campaigning and environment secretary Michael Gove’s proposed ban on plastic waste, from straws to coffee stirrers, we’re finally waking up to the damage wreaked on our environment and ecosystems by many of our non-biodegradable, single use plastic “essentials”. It’s not just your coffee habit that’s contributing either- the government this week declared its intentions to eliminate plastic-containing wet wipes, 5453 of which were found in a space of 115 square metres of the Thames last month. Plastic stemmed cotton buds are also in the firing line, as they pollute our lands and waters, and when flushed down the toilet in particular, they enter the animal food chain, causing death and destruction of our marine life. Speaking of flushing, Thames Water also reports that 93 per cent of blockages in UK sewer systems are caused by wet wipes in our pipes. Not flushing our waste down the toilet would be a good start, but from there here’s how to turn your usual beauty routine plastic-free, from direct alternatives to some pretty passionate PR for the good old flannel…

The eco-cotton bud picks

Many supermarkets, spearheaded by Sainsbury’s and Tesco, have now eliminated the sale of own-brand plastic stemmed cotton buds completely, replacing the non-biodegradable cotton buds with eco friendly paper stemmed cotton buds. Many organic cotton buds go one further in terms of ethics, and campaign group Surfers Against Sewage has put compostable bamboo stemmed cotton buds (£2.50 for 100) on the market after picking up mountains of plastic stemmed buds during regular beach clean-ups. The cotton buds are also packaged in a recyclable cardboard case, and you can buy an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush while you’re at it to further your green bathroom overhaul.


That’s ear-swabbing taken care of, but whether backstage at shows, on shoots or on the go, cotton buds are also commonly used in the beauty industry and daily life to correct makeup mistakes and act as precision tools for hygienic cosmetic application. If you regularly touch up your wings with a cotton bud, another eco idea to consider is a Beautyblender micro mini, £24 for four. The non-latex foam sponges are low fuss, easy to wash, quick to dry and can squeeze into every nook and cranny with ease, from lids to the corners of your eyes. Obviously an ample makeup brush collection is another option. Wash, dry and treat with TLC and a disposable beauty regime will seem entirely antiquated. On the microplastics and makeup front, here’s hoping that non-biodegradable glitter is next on the beauty industry’s environmental agenda.

The plastic-free wet wipe subs

From festivals to flights to baby’s bums (and derrieres up and down the land), wet wipes are often seen as a household or travel essential, and in many cases, where resources, water and facilities are short, they are. While the number of UK bathrooms boasting bidets is likely limited, a cleansing wipe can never replace a good wash, and as for taking your makeup off, a warm flannel is far superior, every single time. If needs must, however, there are a few biodegradable, compostable and plastic-free wipes on our chemist and supermarket shelves, at varying price ranges, but that still doesn’t give you the green light to flush: if they’re compostable, put them in the garden bin. Here’s three to add to your trolley:

Yes To wipes, from £1.99 for 10


Made from 100 per cent plant cellulose, these pre-soaked wipes are biodegradable, compostable and renewable and have earned certification from the Forest Stewardship Council. The 95 per cent natural variations cater for dry, blemish prone and dull skin, although, as above, skincare wise they’re for SOS use only.

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Beauty Kitchen Wipes, from £5.99 for 30


Made from organic cotton and 100 per cent natural ingredients, these compostable wipes are seriously handy for sticky situations- they’re huge, free from essential oils so less likely to trigger sensitivity and suitable for bums of all kinds, from baby and beyond.

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Faith in Nature 3 in 1 Wipes, £3.25 for 25


Biodegradable and formulated with organic aloe vera and chamomile, these wipes are also fragrance and alcohol-free, making them suitable for delicate skin.

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