UK bans plastic straws and drink stirrers

The ban will be introduced next April

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 11 APRIL 2019. Hilton Hotel properties in Dubai has replaced their plastic straws with paper alternatives across the board. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Patrick Ryan. Section: National.
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Plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds will be banned in England from next April.

It follows a public consultation sparked by the environmental damage caused by the disposal of almost five billion plastic straws used in the UK every year.

A ban on the products was supported by more than 80 per cent of those consulted, as it was revealed that more than 300 million plastic stirrers and two billion cotton buds with plastic stems are also used every year.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment.

“These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life.

“So I am taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution, and ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.”

Those with medical needs or a disability will be exempt from the ban.

Registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws over the counter or online.

Restaurants and bars will not be able to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out, but they will be able to provide them on request.

Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage, said: "Stopping the production and distribution of these single-use plastic menaces will prevent them from polluting beaches nationwide. It's a really positive and bold step in the right direction in the battle against plastic pollution.

“It is also helps further drive plastic-free options and alternatives for the public so they can truly make more sustainable choices in their daily lives.”

The announcement follows the government’s charge on single-use plastic bags, which has resulted in an 86 per cent reduction in distribution.

t is estimated that 95 per cent of straws are still plastic despite green alternatives being available.

The cost of cleaning up the litter generated from the items costs the UK government millions of pounds every year.

In March, the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers, paving the way for a ban on single-use plastics to come into force by 2021 in all EU member states

Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste a year, but less than 30 per cent is collected for recycling.

It is estimated there are over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world's oceans and every year one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

A recent report estimates that plastic in the sea is set to treble by 2025.

Earlier this week, a study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports revealed that global plastic waste surveys "have drastically underestimated the scale of debris accumulation".

It followed research by experts on the beaches of the Cocos Islands which revealed the amount of plastic surveyed may be up to 26 times greater than the fragments visible on the surface.