Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton buds as part of attempts to reduce single use plastics.

Most major retailers switched to paper-stemmed buds in the months leading up to the ban following a campaign.

A similar ban – also including plastic coffee stirrers and straws – comes into force in the rest of the UK next year.

Cotton buds are consistently listed in the top 10 forms of beach litter by the Marine Conservation Society. Across the UK, about 1.8 billion of them are sold every year.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the decision, with Marine Conservation Society Scotland Conservation Officer Catherine Gemmell saying volunteers had picked up over 150,000 plastic cotton bud sticks from Scottish beaches over the last 25 years.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I am proud that the Scottish Government has become the first UK administration to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds, with Regulations laid in Parliament on 2 September now coming into force.

“Single-use plastic products are not only wasteful but generate unnecessary litter that blights our beautiful beaches and green spaces while threatening our wildlife on land and at sea.

“This ban builds on work already underway to address Scotland’s throw-away culture, and we will continue to take action on other problematic items in the coming years as part of our efforts to reduce harmful plastics and single-use items, protect our environment and develop a thriving circular economy.