PFAS-coated clothes that are thrown away will often end up either incinerated or in landfill. Unless incinerated at very high temperatures (>1000oC), fluorinated polymers could release more harmful PFAS during burning. PFAS of environmental concern have also been found in landfill leachate. PFAS is found in treated waste water from industrial and domestic sources and has been found in both rivers and groundwater. Conventional drinking water processes will not remove PFAS.Small quantities of PFAS will be removed during wash and wear of products containing PFAS. This includes fluorinated polymers used on stain-resistant coatings, and non-polymers that remain on clothes after production (Lassen et al. 2015).Non-polymer PFAS can build up in blood protein of animals, and is not always removed quickly. This means that predators eating PFAS-contaminated food will have higher levels in their bloodstream, and concentrations can increase up the food chain. Studies suggest that build up of PFAS is similar to those of other Persistent Organic Pollutants such as DDT.PFAS are estimated to be settling in arctic regions at rates of tens to hundreds of kilograms per year (25-850kg per year), depending on the specific PFAS chemical in question. Certain PFAS are released as gases to the environment and are blown a long way by wind and air currents in the atmosphere,. These gas PFAS will over time degrade to more persistent chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. This may be one reason why PFAS of environmental concern have been found in remote regions such as the Arctic as well as near PFAS production sitesPFAS including PFOS and PFOA have been found in air samples around Europe. The chemicals are found in small quantities, but appear in almost all samples tested. PFAS enters the atmosphere both from factories and the air inside our homes. Non-polymer PFAS are used in the production of fluorinated polymers. The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes generally releases these PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. They are very hard to remove during water treatment. Workers in textiles factories are some of the population most exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals.
COP 26 Cotton Buds - Fidra
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Cotton Bud Project

Single-use plastic

Single-use plastic in our environment puts pressure on ecosystems under increasing strain from the climate and biodiversity crisis. Replacing plastic in Cotton Buds with rolled paper removes a harmful and pervasive marine pollutant. Our Cotton bud project shows industry and government that change is possible and plastic could be replaced and rethought in many everyday products.

Cotton Buds


In the UK it’s estimated 1.8 billion cotton buds are used every year, many disposed of improperly by flushing down toilets, ending up in our seas.

Plastic cotton buds were routinely in the top 10 litter items recorded in Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean.

Plastic cotton buds can be eaten by wildlife and damage their internal organs, and also break down into microplastic pollution.


Evidence from the MCS Great British Beach Clean surveys was used to persuade industry to make voluntary changes to stop producing plastic stemmed cotton buds.

Alternative materials such as rolled paper already existed that would not be physically harmful to wildlife if in the environment.

Voluntary action from industry showed government a viable solution to replace a single-use plastic item and led to legislation in Scotland to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds.


Consider if a single-use plastic item is essential, and if so look for alternatives that are reusable.

If items have to be single-use, select ones that are made of materials which are easily disposed of in a waste stream, for example easily recyclable.

If items have to be single-use, select materials that will be less harmful and less persistent than plastic if they are lost to the environment and breakdown easily into non-toxic parts.