Plastic straws, stirrers, cotton buds to be banned in England

One million birds and 100,000 sea mammals die a year from ingesting plastic

Beverage drinkers who need plastic straws for medical reasons in the UK will be able to procure them from registered pharmacies. Photograph: Getty Images

Beverage drinkers who need plastic straws for medical reasons in the UK will be able to procure them from registered pharmacies. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds are to be banned in England from next year to tackle pollution and protect the environment.

British environment secretary Michael Gove has confirmed a ban on the supply of the items from April 2020 after a consultation revealed “overwhelming” public support for the move.

Exemptions will allow those who need to use plastic straws for medical reasons or a disability to buy them from registered pharmacies or request them in restaurants, pubs and bars, and the use of plastic-stemmed cotton buds for medical and scientific purposes.

Food and drink outlets will not be able to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out.

The government’s response to the consultation, published on Wednesday, reveals that more than 80 per cent of respondents back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, 90 per cent a ban on drinks stirrers, and 89 per cent a ban on cotton buds.

It is estimated that 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used each year in England.

Around 10 per cent of cotton buds are flushed down toilets, often ending up in waterways and oceans, the government said.

It is hoped millions of pounds could be saved annually on clean-up efforts of used plastics.

Mr Gove said: “Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment. These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life.

“So today I am taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution, and ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.”

It is estimated there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans and every year one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

Greenpeace political campaigner Sam Chetan-Welsh said: “It’s been a long time coming, but we welcome the news that the Government is finally enforcing a ban on throwaway plastics like straws, cotton buds and stirrers. The reality is though, that these bans only scratch the surface.

“To really tackle the plastic crisis we need bigger bolder action from this Government, including targets to radically reduce the production of single-use plastics and an all-inclusive deposit return scheme for drinks containers.” – PA