Cotton buds are small. Tiny. But you use them for 5 seconds, throw them away and they end up in landfill or the ocean. One is no big deal. But we use a lot. Some estimates put the total amount of cotton buds (aka Qtips) used each year at over 20 billion. That's less than four per person per year. Can you imagine what 20 billion cotton buds look like?
There are a number of reusable cotton swabs now available and I picked LastSwab which seemed to have a good overall offering. The other option I considered was bamboo buds like these from Biome. Biodegradable but still more production, more waste, more landfill for a period of time.
- Safe - I notice that LastObject website doesn't say what to use them for or how to use them, I'm guessing for safety, insurance reasons. Inside the packaging, it says 'don't stick too far into your ear'. I'll do the same - please don't put these in your ears.
- Gross - The first comment my wife had was 'that's a bit gross', but really, not that bad. In fact, it's quite similar to a razor for shaving or a face washer for the shower. It gets dirty, you wash it. It depends on what you use it for. It's all gross, but throwing it away vs a quick clean is marginally different for me, it may be a deal breaker for others.
- Feeling - Honestly, it's not the soft, cotton feeling of a bud. It feels like the hard rubber that it is. But after the initial feeling, it didn't bother me.
- Function - How well does it work? Very well. The nodgels (the tiny mounds on the end) picked up everything I wanted picked up and when I cleaned it in hot water for 3 seconds, it seemed good to go.
- Good packaging - super small and easy to send, and 100% cardboard. The carry case is also bio-degradable and made of recycled plastics too.
- Worked well - did the job.
- Small size - easy to store and carry when travelling.
A youtube has done a good review of LastSwab and a few other of their products here;
- Team: They seem committed to the cause from the founder bio here - Isabel Aagaard.
- Product: I haven't had it for long but I don't see any barriers to me using it.
- Market: Huge market, but one issue is if I only need one per person every 5 years then tough to build a business around it. LastObject seems to be solving this with multiple products.
- Momentum: Danish company, selling to Australians and they seem to be the biggest brand, so doing well.
- Impact: A big depends here based on consumer uptake. My guess is that most people don't care enough to buy one. They are more likely to buy bamboo ones or wait until the big brands make theirs sustainable. So I'd mark this as potentially good, but tough.
Find out more at LastObject;