Earth Day: These reusable cotton swabs are my zero-waste, desert island essential

<p>1.5 billion Q-tip-style sticks are produced daily worldwide</p> (iStock/The Independent )

1.5 billion Q-tip-style sticks are produced daily worldwide

(iStock/The Independent )

As the mother of four young children, I spend quite a lot of my time agonising about my family’s impact on the environment – and doing my best to mitigate it.

My sustainability efforts are reflected in everything we do: we walk or scoot most places, predominantly eat plant-based meals, and shop secondhand or borrow rental clothing.

I also opt for reusable everyday items instead of disposable ones. Overhauling my beauty cupboard and personal hygiene products has been a mission of mine for several years: I use Dame reusable applicators and Thinx period pants, packaging-free shower and shampoo bars where possible, and I haven’t seen a disposable cotton pad or swab for well over a year – not since I discovered brilliant Danish company LastObject.

LastObject is on a mission to take the disposable, mundane and essential-for-everyday items like the tissue, the cotton pad and the Q-Tip, and turn them into lasting products to cherish.

Yes, cherish. The lastswab may be a reusable Q-Tip (which replaces up to 1,000 disposable cotton swabs), but it’s also an item I’ve had a slightly cultish obsession with since I first set eyes on it. Like, if I had to bring one item to a desert island with me, it would be this one.

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Lastswab is such a simple, yet ingenious, product. I now own two – the basic and beauty versions – and I always seem to be carrying one of them around with me as I work from home (they fit perfectly into pockets).

Something about the lastswab really reminds me of the “readymade” in art, and how something utterly “meh” can take on new significance and relevance in the right context.

The versatility of cotton swabs is well-known: from cleaning computer keyboards and behind the ears to perfecting that eyeliner flick, we all love ‘em and have our own special things we use them for (kids’ crafts! Nails! Random DIY projects!). And yes, lots of us are still using them to remove ear wax, even though pretty much every doctor on the planet has warned against it...

The ubiquity and usefulness of cotton buds doesn’t make up for the fact they’re terrible for the planet: Defra estimates that 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used in England every year; they’ve been banned in the UK as of October 2020.

Cotton swabs are produced at a rate of 1.5 billion per day, and when these end up in oceans, which they often do, they cause devastating damage to marine life. Bamboo cotton swabs have emerged as an alternative but these are still disposable and will end up costly in the long run.

I truly believe lastswab has something to offer everyone, which is why I’ve started giving it as a gift to all of my friends. It’s zero-waste, under a tenner, comes in a colourful carry case that slides open and serves a practical purpose. What’s not to love?

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The Gamechanger: LastObject lastswab

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Lastswab is the first product launch from Danish brand LastObject, and combines smart, stylish design with durability, so you’ll never have to use single-use cotton swabs again.

You can choose from a beauty version with one rounded end and one pointed end, well-designed to correct any mascara smudges or perfect your lipstick. It comes in a choice of nine colourful cases, and each hue is more tempting than the next. I have the purple one; it’s so pretty.

There’s also the basic lastswab, which I’ve used for cleaning behind kids’ ears, around mouths and between little fingers. I am a piercing fanatic (for myself, not the kids), and I’ve also used it to keep various new ones clean with soap and water.

It’s durable and made with a nylon rod, textured TPE tips that dry instantly, and it’s stored in a handy swivel case.

The LastObject team have just come up with a new material for the case to replace the plant-based plastic with repurposed, ocean-bound plastic (OBP), in an effort to help clean up current pollution as well as preventing single-use waste. The issue with the current plant-based plastic case is that it has to be disposed of properly in order to biodegrade.

Lastswab is also super easy to clean using soap and water, and it’s safe to use rubbing alcohol to sanitise it, too. Apparently, you can even put it through the dishwasher, although I haven’t tried that yet.

LastObject is on a wider mission: in addition to eliminating single-use items like tissues and cotton pads, the brand wants to clear the ocean of plastics, and has partnered with Plastic Bank to try to do so.

For each product purchased in April 2021, the brand will remove 2lbs of ocean-bound plastic, with the goal of retrieving 22,000lbs of it overall.

I’m not the only one obsessed by my lastswabs: reviewers tend to be blown away, and the lastswab has just taken home gold award at the Berlin Design Awards 2021.

This isn’t to say there aren’t haters, like those who don’t like the feel of the silicone. Truth be told, I’ve been using mine for so long, I can’t remember what a traditional cotton swab feels like. Some critique the product for using plastic in its design; the brand notes that even if a lastswab does end up getting thrown away improperly, the damage it will cause is less than 0.1 per cent of its single-use counterparts.

One final thing: if you’re into doing your nails, take note not to use it with acetone, as this could damage the silicone tips.

The verdict: LastObject lastswab

Lastswab has been a gamechanger for me because I’m constantly finding new uses for it – for myself and for my kids. In fact, in my anxiety-ridden lockdown state, it became a fantastic fiddle toy to keep me distracted, thanks to its clever packaging. Lastswab makes me smile, and I love giving it as a gift to my friends. It’s well-priced, looks fabulous, and is such a cool thing to spread the word about. Plus, there’s no question in my mind that everyone I know will find some use for it.

Buy now £9.00,

For more bathroom gamechangers, check out this £5 moisturiser that ended our reviewer’s battle with eczema