Image for UK government bans plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds

UK government bans plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds

The government confirms a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in a bid to reduce plastic waste

The government confirms a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in a bid to reduce plastic waste

The UK environment secretary Michael Gove has today confirmed a ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England, following overwhelming public support for the move.

The ban, which will come into force in April 2020, will include exemptions to ensure that people with medical needs or a disability are able to continue to access plastic straws.

The essential news briefing for optimists Get Positive News stories in your inbox every Saturday

Over 80 per cent of respondents to a consultation on the issue backed 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.

Registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws, over the counter or online, but restaurants, pubs and other catering establishments will not be allowed to display plastic straws or provide them automatically.

The government believes this strikes the right balance between reducing environmental impact while protecting the rights of people with medical conditions and disabilities. The government will carry out a stocktake after one year to assess the impact of the measures and gauge whether the balance is correct.

It’s a really positive and bold step in the right direction in the battle against plastic pollution

In England, it is estimated that annually we use 4.7bn plastic straws, 316m plastic stirrers and 1.8bn plastic-stemmed cotton buds. An estimated 10 per cent of cotton buds are flushed down toilets and can end up in waterways and oceans.

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.”

A recent report estimates that plastic in the sea is set to treble by 2025. Image: Kris Mikael Krister

It is estimated there are more than 150m tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans, and every year one million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. A recent report estimates that plastic in the sea is set to treble by 2025.

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of campaign organisation Surfers Against Sewage, welcomed the ban: “Stopping the production and distribution of these single-use plastic menaces will prevent them from polluting beaches nationwide. It’s a really positive and bold step in the right direction in the battle against plastic pollution.

“It is also helps further drive plastic-free options and alternatives for the public so they can truly make more sustainable choices in their daily lives.”

Featured image: Meghan Rodgers

GET A ROUND-UP OF POSITIVE NEWS STORIES IN YOUR INBOX EVERY WEEKSign up to our newsletter