The UK is estimated to go through 8.5 billion single-use plastic straws every year – the highest number in Europe – and Environment Secretary Michael Gove has spoken out to say that their use could help the UK become more environmentally friendly.
Worryingly, two billion straws are thrown away in London alone every year, a combined weight of 1,000 tonnes or three fully-laden jumbo jets. Because they cannot be recycled the straws often end up in waterways and in the sea, causing damage and death to plants and animals.
A distressing video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril recently prompted calls for them to be banned around the world, and a number of MPs have called for an end to their use in bars and restaurants.
Asked whether he might ban plastic straws after Britain has left the EU next year, Mr Gove said: “Watch this space,” adding that “If it is bad, then banning it is a good thing” but he also said there has to be a balanced approach.
Mr Gove said that banning straws would be easier after the UK leaves the EU, because of laws which prevent individual nations from blocking products they don’t want.
Keep Britain Tidy chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton said: “Plastic straws really do suck, often unnecessary in drinks and always out of place in our waterways and on our beaches where they often end up.
“Paper, bamboo and metal alternatives to plastic are freely available and Keep Britain Tidy urges people to swap their straw and never let any straw escape into the environment.”