UK government plans ban on plastic straws

The sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds will be banned in England subject to a consultation later this year, the UK government has confirmed.

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This is part of its 25-year Environment Plan ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste, with a recent study revealing that 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away in the UK each year.

The announcement was made at the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, where prime minister Theresa May urged other leaders to “join us in the fight against plastic”.

To drive this ambition forward, the government has committed £61.4m to help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste entering the sea, as well as for funding global research.

“Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting,” May said.

“The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines. Together we can effect real change so future generations can enjoy a natural environment healthier than we currently find it.”

Over 150 million tonnes of plastic is estimated to litter the world’s oceans, and every year one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in the debris.

The proposed ban on plastic straws comes after a 5p charge on plastic bags resulted in a 90% reduction in use and 9 billion fewer distributed, while the government has also introduced a ban on microbeads.

In addition, proposals for a deposit return scheme for drink containers were announced last month, as was a call for evidence on how the tax system can be changed to cut down on single-use plastics.

“We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on straws, stirrers and cotton buds to help protect our marine life,” environment secretary, Michael Gove said.

“Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now.”

“It’s only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation – we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic.”

 

Image credit: iStock

Author: 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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