Plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds with plastic stems will be banned from sale and use in England from next April.
The government has confirmed it is introducing new controls on single-use plastic and that next April, plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds with plastic stems will be banned from sale and use in England.
Nearly 5 billion plastic straws are currently used each year in the UK, the highest number in Europe, along with over 300 million plastic stirrers and nearly 2 billion cotton buds with plastic stems.
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 so the move has been introduced in a bid to tackle the environmental impact of these products.
Registered pharmacies will be permitted to sell plastic straws, over the counter or online, but supermarkets, restaurants and pubs will no longer be allowed to display plastic straws or provide them automatically unless a customer requests one due to a disability as a total ban could lead to the risk of dehydration.
When asked who could request a straw, a spokesperson for the environment ministry Defra said: “Anyone can ask for a straw and be given one without needing to prove a disability – we’ve been working with disabled groups so that they don’t feel stigmatised.”
Whilst cotton buds with plastic stems will be banned from sale to the general public, medical and scientific laboratories will be able to buy them for use in research and for forensic tasks in criminal investigations.
Environment Secretary Micheal Gove revealed last year that MPs were in talks to ban the use of single-use plastic products after 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.
Speaking about the decision to introduce the ban by April 2020, Gove said: “Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution. These items are often used for just a few minutes, but take hundreds of years to break down.”
The government estimates that England’s annual use of straws totally 4.7bn will fall to 44 million when the new restrictions are introduced.
Find out why fishing, not plastic straws, is the biggest contributor to ocean plastic pollution here.