The British government announced today that single-use plastic products such as straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds, will be banned from being sold in the country. Prime Minister Theresa May is using the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit in London as a launchpad for the initiative, which will see consultation about the ban beginning later this year.
Attempting to rally fellow Commonwealth leaders to follow Britain’s lead, Mrs May said that “plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.”
Mrs May's government has banned plastic microbeads in cosmetic and other products, as well introducing a charge on plastic bags which has already led to 9 billion fewer bags being distributed.
“The UK government is a world leader on this issue,” she acknowledged, “and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.”
Britain would take a lead amongst Commonwealth nations, she said, committing £61.4million funding for global research into plastic waste and to improve its management in developing countries.
“The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines. Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it,” she added.
Mrs May and her environment secretary Michael Gove have launched a 25-year plan that will result in the end of creating avoidable plastic waste. They plan to work closely with industry to ensure that any economic impact on companies involved in the plastics sector will be suitably prepared.
Mr Gove said: “Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now. We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on straws, stirrers and cotton buds to help protect our marine life.
“We’ve already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use, however it’s only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation – we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic.”