Cotton Swabs Put in Garbage No Chemicals in the Compost Do not compost cotton swabs used with chemicals such as nail polish remover. Ways to Reduce Choose Cardboard Over Plastic Since plastic may never fully biodegrade, avoid disposable plastic items. Cardboard can biodegrade, so it is a more eco-friendly material. Ways to Reuse Use Cotton Swabs for Makeup & Cleaning If you have leftover cotton swabs, use them to carefully apply cosmetics or clean keyboards and hair dryers. Find more ideas in Reader’s Digest. Did You Know? Cotton Swabs Are Not Designed to Go in Ears Although it is their most common use, cotton swabs damage ears if inserted for cleaning earwax. Every package of cotton swabs contains a disclaimer warning against this use. Removing earwax can lead to infection and hearing problems. Learn more from the Washington Post.