Plastic straw ban to come into force in 2020

Plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds will be banned in England from April 2020 following “overwhelming public support”, environment secretary Michael Gove has confirmed today.

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However, there are some exceptions. Pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to provide plastic straws on request, but will not be allowed to display them openly or hand them out to customers.

Registered pharmacies will also be able to sell plastic straws over the counter or online for medical reasons, while plastic-stemmed cotton buds will be allowed for scientific purposes.

The government said its approach “strikes the right balance” between reducing environmental impact and protecting the rights of people with medical conditions.

It is estimated that 10% of the 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds used in England each year are flushed down toilets, potentially entering the ocean. A massive 4.7 billion plastic straws and 316 million stirrers are also used annually.

Gove said: “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.”

Today’s developments come after a consultation was launched last October, with 80%, 90% and 89% of respondents supporting a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds respectively.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that local governments spend millions on littering costs every year, and that 89% are worried about the effect of plastic pollution.

It is estimated that the world’s oceans contain over 150 million tonnes of plastic, causing a million birds, and over 100,000 sea mammals to die after eating or getting caught in the waste.

"Stopping the production and distribution of these single-use plastic menaces will prevent them from polluting beaches nationwide," said Surfers Against Sewage CEO, Hugo Tagholm.

“It’s a really positive and bold step in the right direction. It also helps further drive plastic-free options and alternatives for the public so they can truly make more sustainable choices in their daily lives.” 

Author: 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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