It’s fairly safe to say that nobody ever wants to see a picture of a seahorse with its tail wrapped around a cotton tip ever again. The picture I’m talking about was taken by Wildlife Photographer of the Year Justin Hoffman in 2017, and it features a tiny seahorse ‘anchoring itself’ on a discarded single use piece of plastic – a cotton tip.

It swiftly went viral and shone a much-needed, glaringly bright spotlight on what our daily human habits are doing to our oceans and its beautiful inhabitants.

At the time, Hoffman told the BBC: “At first, I was so happy to find this cute seahorse all alone but as the tide changed, sea grass and debris started to drift over the reef – and plastic, trash and sewage along with it. The white blobs you see in the background are actually plastic bags.

“As the whole thing unfolded, I knew it was an important scene that had to be documented. It was frustrating, disgusting and sad but I had to shoot it.”

And boy are we glad he did. Since then, Hoffman’s work and that of many other environmentalists, has turned the world’s attention to the scourge of plastics and other non-biodegradable materials in our oceans and the devastating effect this has on marine life. It has also lead to many companies – some of them massive – rethinking the materials they use to create the products we use day in and day out. Like cotton tips, for example.

Yesterday, a pack of Swisspers Earth Kind Soft and Strong Cotton Tips happened across my desk. I was pretty excited. Gone are the old plastic stems and in their place, sustainably sourced, recyclable, biodegradable wood and paper stems (available from Woolworths for $2.99).

But let’s be fair here. As awesome as this is, Swisspers was not the first company to come up with sustainable alternatives to this scourge. Here’s a list of our faves, that forged the way to a plastic-free-oceanic future.

Green and Kind Cotton Buds 100, $3.95
Made from 100% sustainable bamboo and cotton, these are also compostable and they come in recyclable, compostable, packaging for zero waste.

Go Bamboo Biodegradable Cotton Buds 200, $8.95  – 100% biodegradable and made from sustainable bamboo sticks with a natural cotton tip, these are perfect for make-up removal and a multitude of other everyday uses. The packaging is also 100% recyclable.

Simply Gentle Organic Cotton Buds, $6.95 – these waste-free cotton buds, made from 100% Certified Organic Cotton on paper stems are ideal for quickly fixing make up smudges and for using with nail polish remover around the cuticles.

Organyc Cotton Beauty Buds 200, $5.95 – Crafted with recycled cardboard stems and certified organic by the soil association, these could quote possibly be the perfect cotton bud!

Photography: Justin Hoffman/Facebook

About the Author


After 30 years of working in Australian media, Shonagh is one of Australia’s busiest and most in-demand beauty, health, travel and lifestyle writers.

As a health and lifestyle journalist and consultant, Shonagh has worked closely with international wellness experts and icons, including Dr. Sandra Cabot, Therese Kerr and Miranda Kerr.

In other aspects of her work, she has travelled the world reviewing wellness retreats and luxe holiday destinations, and she has interviewed and written feature articles on some of the world’s best love celebrities, including Sting, Elle McPherson, Pamela Anderson, Simon Baker, Kylie Minogue, Gwen Stefani, Tina Arena, Heather Graham and many more.

She currently lives in the NSW Southern Highlands with her four dogs (three Siberian Huskies and one Maltese Cross), where she grows her own veggies and advocates ending Factory Farming and animal cruelty.

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