The UK government has announced that it has delayed the ban of single-use plastic items until October due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In May 2019, the government confirmed it would be introducing new controls on single-use plastic and plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds with plastic stems to ban them from sale and use in England.
The ban, which was originally set to come into place from April 2020 has now been delayed until October due to the pandemic, according to a memo sent to companies from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Other measures to cut down on single-use plastics have already been relaxed by ministers due to the pandemic such as the 5p charge for plastic shopping bags which has been waived for online deliveries.
‘Committed to turning the tide’
In a statement, Defra said: “Given the huge challenges posed to businesses by coronavirus, we have confirmed we will delay the introduction of our ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds until October 2020.
“We remain absolutely committed to turning the tide on the widespread use of single-use plastics and the threat they pose to our natural environment.
“This ban is yet another measure to clamp down on unnecessary plastic so we can better protect our precious wildlife and leave our environment in a better state for future generations.”
Campaigners have criticised the move, with Sian Sutherland, co-founder of the campaign group A Plastic Planet, saying: “Let’s hope this isn’t the beginning of a slippery slope when the UK public have made it very clear that they want industry to protect nature, not continue to pollute and destroy it.”
Who can use single-use plastics following the ban?
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.