A ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds could be in place within a year under the latest government plans to cut pollution, announced yesterday (Monday 22 October) by environment secretary Michael Gove.
Launching a consultation on the proposals, the environment secretary referred to the success of the 5p charge on single-use plastic bags, which led to an 86% drop in their use at major supermarkets.
He vowed to ‘turn the tide on plastic pollution’ by removing the estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion cotton buds used in England each year, many of which end up in rivers and seas.
The EU announced that it would introduce similar measures earlier this year, prompting calls for the UK to follow its lead.
The government is now seeking to ban the distribution and sale of these items to force businesses to offer non-plastic alternatives – although many, including JD Wetherspoon, Wagamama and Pizza Express, have already made the switch voluntarily.
“Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throwaway plastic items can cause,” said Mr Gove. “I commend retailers, bars and restaurants that have already committed to removing plastic straws and stirrers, but we recognise we need to do more.”
“Today we step up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it,” he added.
The propsed ban is expected to come into force at some point between October 2019 and October 2020. Medical use of plastic straws and any other necessary exemptions will be included in the legislation.