Ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds begins

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The ban on supplying plastic straws and stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds has come into force in England (Thursday 1 October).

The ban comes a month after ministers confirmed the single-use plastic bag charge would be increased to 10p and extended to all retailers.

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

The government said that by banning the supply of these items, our marine wildlife can be further protected and that it’s a step closer to its ambition of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste, as set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan.

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.”

However, anyone will be able to request a plastic straw when visiting a pub or restaurant and purchase them from pharmacies.

Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner, Siôn Elis Williams, is supportive of the move but believes the government needs to take further steps to tackle plastic waste.

“The ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds is welcome news, but these items are just a fraction of the plastic rubbish that pours into our environment and threatens our wildlife,” said Williams.

“The government must get tougher on plastic with short and longer term targets that are legally binding in its Environment Bill, currently passing through Parliament. What is then needed is a strong framework to check that standards have been met, in doing these things there is a hope of stemming the tide of plastic pollution.

“Ministers must also do more to challenge our throwaway culture by forcing a shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives.

“It’s time to put the planet first and end wasteful over-consumption.”

That opinion is echoed by Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, who said: “Of course any ban on pointless plastic is a good thing. But let’s not congratulate ourselves in the UK that we are making any real dent in the plastic waste mountain. Shame on us for delaying this ban six months when the rest of Europe stuck to the April deadline.

“The shocking news is that even if every global government commitment and industry pledge were achieved, it would only reduce plastic pollution by 7% so this ban is clearly a drop in the ocean.  We need stronger legislation urgently to tackle the plastic problem.”