Paper Sticks: The Key to Cotton Swabs and Lollipops

rMedicine cabinets and candy jars are just two of the unexpected — and probably overlooked — places where Domtar is part of everyday life. For years, Domtar has supplied the paper that goes into making paper sticks for some of the largest cotton swab and lollipop makers in the United States. You can’t twist a swab or lick a lollipop without those small paper sticks.

“This is a fun side of the business that not many people think about,” said Chris Gagner, an account manager at Domtar. “There is a lot of electronic substitution that is impacting the paper industry, but paper sticks are a stable segment of the industry. The product is safe and biodegradable and cannot easily be replaced.”

Domtar supplies paper for cotton swab sticks made by U.S. Cotton and swab and candy sticks. The manufacturers that use our fiber sourced from sustainably managed forests to create paper sticks that are biodegradable and compostable.

New to the market are paper sticks dipped in fragrant oil, which can be used to scent the home, car and office. These sticks join the recent trend toward natural products that can help consumers reduce or avoid the use of harsh chemicals.

Innovation-minded manufacturers have also developed fun variations on the tried and true white paper stick. Some candy manufacturers have used tinted sticks to make their sweets even more appealing.

The Environmental Case for Paper Sticks

Some manufacturers have used plastic sticks for cotton swabs and food products, as they believed plastic to be a safer and sturdier alternative to paper. But consumers found that broken plastic sticks could be harmful to the soft tissue in ear canals and mouths.

Unlike plastic, paper sticks have no sharp edges or serrated surfaces if they’re chewed. They won’t break or splinter. They are also fully biodegradable, so they don’t pose an environmental risk. And rather than using a petroleum byproduct, sticks can be made from a clean, renewable source.

The environmental benefits have swayed other companies to return to paper sticks. The London Daily Telegraph reported earlier this year that pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is returning to using paper sticks in its cotton swabs to reduce the waste that enters waterways. Ten percent of the more than 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually ends up polluting waterways and oceans.

The return to safe, biodegradable paper sticks comes as no surprise to the makers of stick paper, including Domtar.

“Too many people flush the sticks down the toilet, so they go through the waste water treatment and wind up in our waterways,” Gagner said. “It’s just another reason paper is better.”

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