A campaign to promote reusable sanitary products has been announced by the First Minister as part of moves to protect the marine environment.

The Scottish Government will work with Zero Waste Scotland on the £175,200 campaign to help reduce the 100 billion pieces of sanitary waste disposed of around the world each year.

Speaking at Scotland’s International Marine Conference in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland is demonstrating international leadership in protecting marine environments and will continue to maintain EU environmental standards despite Brexit.

In the coming weeks the Scottish Government will publish proposals to make it an offence to throw litter overboard from fishing vessels while at sea.

The First Minister said: “Scotland continues to lead the way in protecting our marine environments and the size of Scotland’s marine protected area is testament to our commitment to protecting important habitats and species.

“This new campaign to promote reusable sanitary products expands our existing efforts to tackle the problem of single use plastic.

“Following the successful introduction of legislation to ban plastic microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, we are the first in the UK to commit to a ban on plastic stemmed cotton buds.

“It is also important we tackle the smaller, but not insignificant, proportion of litter which comes from our marine industries.

“Our paper on the future of fisheries management will seek views on how we can ensure the fishing sector play their part in protecting the marine environment.”

She said that across the UK, more than four million sanitary products are flushed down the toilet every day and the campaign will have a “significant and important” impact.

The two-day conference, organised by the Scottish Government, is taking place at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is consulting on several new marine protected areas and will also consult on creating two historic marine protected areas at Lerwick and Scapa Flow.

The Scottish Government is also looking into creating a marine reserve in the North East Atlantic where the waters are more than 800m deep, which would cover almost 150,000sq km – nearly twice the size of Scotland’s land mass.

This would almost double the overall size of Scotland’s marine protected areas, from covering 22% of territorial waters to 42%.

Ms Sturgeon said regardless of Brexit, Scotland would continue to work with other countries to protect the marine environment.

She said: “By taking strong and determined action here at home, Scotland is trying to demonstrate international leadership.

“We’re very clear that despite Brexit we are in Scotland going to continue to maintain EU environmental standards.

“We will also comply with international arrangements and we will of course continue to learn from and work with partners across the globe.”

Dr Lyndsey Dodds, head of marine at WWF, said: “Any action to reduce the amount of single use plastics is to be welcomed. This is a forward thinking campaign on reusable sanitary products and addresses a number of important issues that are impacting our seas.

“Eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year and 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, so plans to make it an offence to throw litter overboard from fishing vessels while at sea is also a very positive step.

“The natural world isn’t a luxury – it is our life support system. It’s good to see the Scottish Government taking action to help our marine environment before it’s too late.”

Jill Farrell, chief operating officer at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “We fully support all measures to protect our environment and resources. It is estimated that almost one third of sanitary products are flushed down the toilet, with a significant percentage ending up as marine litter.

“Reducing waste is key in ensuring a sustainable future as much of this is synthetic materials and plastics that can take up to 500 years to fully break down.”