Plastic straw, cotton bud and stirrer ban comes into force in England today

Read Time:   |  1st October 2020

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From today, it is now illegal for businesses to sell or supply single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and drinks stirrers as the government clamps down on avoidable plastic waste


In 2019,  the government confirmed it would be introducing new controls on single-use plastic that would see drink stirrers and cotton buds with plastic stems banned from sale and use in England.

The ban was originally due to start in April, but has just come into effect in England today (1 October) after being delayed due to the pandemic which caused supply chains to be impacted.

From today, it will now be illegal for businesses to sell or supply these single-use plastic products however there are exemptions in place to protect disabled people and those with medical conditions who require plastic straws.

Those who are exempt from the ban will still be able to request a plastic straw when visiting a pub or restaurant and can purchase them from pharmacies.

Every year in England we use an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds, many of which find their way into our ocean.

The government hopes that by banning the supply of these items they can ‘further protect our marine wildlife and move one step closer to our ambition of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste.’

‘Battle against plastic pollution’

Speaking about the ban, Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Single-use plastics cause real devastation to the environment and this government is firmly committed to tackling this issue head on.

“We are already a world-leader in this global effort. Our 5p charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95% in the main supermarkets, we have banned microbeads, and we are building plans for a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers.

“The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations.”


Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “It’s fantastic news that the ban on plastic cotton bud sticks, stirrers and straws is now in place. The results of our annual Great British Beach Clean have shown a decrease in cotton bud sticks littering British beaches.

“In 2017 we found an average of 31 cotton bud sticks per 100 metres of beach, and in 2019 we found just eight on beaches in England. This reflects that many companies have already made the switch away from plastic, in cotton buds and other items, something we need to see more companies doing.

“Only with ambitious policy and forward-thinking brands and companies, can we truly stop the plastic tide.”

Last month, ministers also confirmed the single-use plastic bag charge would be increased to 10p and extended to all retailers in an attempt to further reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste produced in the UK.

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