A ban on non-biodegradable or non-compostable cotton swabs has come into effect in Italy with the start of 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 swabs on 245 beaches in Italy during the last five years. The figure, said Legambiente, corresponded to more than 9 percent 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 percent of the waste registered on European beaches.
Italy has also allocated 250,000 euros ($280,000) to improve the packaging and marketing of the swabs. Manufacturers are now required to provide "clear information on the proper disposal" of the products. Failure to comply could cost the producers fines of up 25,000 euros ($28,000) 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, approved by the European Parliament Dec. 19, bans single-use plastic products from the market, such as plastic cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, products made of oxodegradable plastic and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.