A ban on non-biodegradable or non-compostable cotton buds has come into effect in Italy in 2019, as part of a bid to eliminate single-use plastics.
The ban will be extended to microplastics in cosmetic cleansing products as of January 2020.
The move is in response to a recent study by environmental association Legambiente which found over 14,000 pieces of cotton buds in 245 beaches in Italy over the last five years. The figure, said Legambiente, corresponded to more than 9% of the waste on the beaches under study - an average of 60 plastic sticks for each beach.
Recent figures provided by the European Environment Agency (EEA) suggest that cotton swabs represent around 4% of the waste registered on European beaches.
Italy has also allocated €250,000 to improve the packaging and marketing of the buds. Manufacturers are henceforth required to provide "clear information on the proper disposal" of the products. Failure to comply could cost the producers fines of up €25,000 and result in a suspension of production.
The move is also in line with the EU's plastic strategy which seeks to ban many single-use plastic products by 2021.
The new EU directive, which was approved by the European Parliament 19 Dec, bans single-use plastic products from the market, such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, products made of oxodegradable plastic and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.