The UK government's ban on plastic items in England is part of its ambition of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste in the country
The ban on supplying plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds has come into force in England today (1 October).
It’s estimated that people in England use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic cotton buds every year, many of which find their way into the ocean.
By banning the supply of these items, the government believes it can further protect marine wildlife and move one step closer to its ambition of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste.
The ban also comes one month after ministers confirmed that the single-use plastic bag charge would be increased to 10p and be extended to all retailers.
UK 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.”
Ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton bud sticks ‘fantastic news’, says charity boss
The government has said that disabled people and those with medical conditions will be able to request a plastic straw when visiting a pub or restaurant, as well as purchase them from pharmacies.
Alongside its ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton bud sticks in England, the UK is involved in a range of overseas programmes that are looking to tackle plastic waste.
This includes the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance and the Commonwealth Litter Programme, which aims to prevent plastic waste from reaching the ocean in the first place.
The government is also committed to launching a £500m ($643m) Blue Planet Fund to protect the ocean from plastic pollution, warming sea temperatures and overfishing.
Charity the Marine Conservation Society’s head of clean seas Dr Laura Foster 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.”