The UK government has today set out its plan to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds in England.
A six-week consultation has been launched by environment secretary Michael Gove.
In England, it is estimated that annually 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used.
The government said that even though non-plastic alternatives are readily available, these single-use plastic items are used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down. It added that cleaning up the effects of littering costs local government millions of pounds every year.
A proposed ban would come into force at some point between October 2019 and October 2020, subject to the views collected during the consultation. The consultation will also seek views on how to ensure those who need straws for medical and accessibility reasons can still use them.
Earlier this year the EU announced similar measures and there have since been calls for the UK to respond with its own ban as a change in EU law would unlikely come before the UK’s departure from the union.
Michael Gove said: “Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throw-away plastic items can cause. In England, we are taking world-leading action with our ban on microbeads, and thanks to the public’s support have taken over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation with our £0.05 charge.
“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.”
UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said: “We wholeheartedly welcome this consultation on an issue of vital importance and one which hospitality has already taken significant action.
“Since UKHospitality’s Unpack the Future of Hospitality summit in the spring, thousands of pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK have changed their straws and stirrers to biodegradables, or adopted policies that cut or eliminate their use in their venues.”
In August, the UK government revealed that there is a high level of support among UK individuals and businesses to use the tax system to reduce waste from single-use plastics.