Cotton buds made by Sainsbury’s will be completely free of plastic, following a campaign to stop toxic waste reaching the sea.
The switch to using a biodegradable glue means the supermarket is the first retailer to publicly pledge to remove all plastic from its own-brand cotton buds.
Sainsbury’s announced last year it would replace the plastic stick with paper by the end of 2017 in its own-brand products, and said it hoped to phase in the new glue at the same time.
The retailer said it was currently in talks to find a suitable replacement adhesive.
Once the new glue is made, it will be shared within the industry as “openness and sharing is key in driving the uptake of sustainable sources”, according to Sainsbury’s brand director Judith Batchelar.
“This is more than making a competitive product, it’s doing what’s fundamentally right for the environment,” she said.
The number of plastic cotton buds found on UK beaches has doubled since 2012, with about 11 to 24 found for every 100 metres, according to the Marine Conservation Society.
Sainsbury’s said it also planned to increase the prominence of the ‘do not flush’ warnings on the front of cotton bud packs, introducing a new industry-standard marking to help advise customers.
“Cotton buds should always be bagged and binned but we know that many people still flush them away,” explained research officer for environmental charity Fidra Dr Clare Cavers.
“Education is key and these changes from Sainsbury’s will have a huge impact on marine health, especially with their pledge to share the revised formula with competitors. It’s great to see this sustainable way of thinking continuing to prevail.”
All of Britain’s supermarkets pledged to remove plastic from their cotton buds last year following a campaign by founder of environmental campaign group City to Sea, Natalie Fee - which now has more than 130,000 backers.
“Preventing plastics from reaching the ocean is essential for ensuring the health of our marine wildlife and also from stopping plastics entering the food chain,” said Fee.
“It’s great that retailers have agreed to switch the stick, but this move from Sainsbury’s goes even further to protect our oceans.”