Plastic Straws, Drinks Stirrers and Plastic Cotton Buds Will Be Banned Next Year
The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced that plastic straws, drinks stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds will be banned in England in April next year.
A government consultation showed that there is huge support for the move from the public, retail and manufacturing, publics bodies, and NGOs. Over 80% of people who responded to the consultation were in favour of a ban on plastic straws, 90% wanted a ban on drinks stirrers, and 89% wanted to see the back of plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
Research commissioned by Defra found that around 4.7 billion straws, 316 million stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used in England alone each year. This is a huge amount of items that will end up in landfill, in the incinerator, or being discarded as litter.
There are exceptions
There will be exemptions for people who need to use straws for medical reasons, for example, a disability. In these cases, straws will be available on request from pharmacies and food and drinks establishments.
There will also be exemptions to the ban on plastic-stemmed cotton buds in areas where they are the only practical option, like in medicine, scientific research, and in forensic investigations.
Defra will measure the impact of the ban after a year. The government has not yet revealed how the ban will be enforced and what action will be taken against people who flout it.
A ban will encourage innovation
As well as stemming the tide of plastic pollution, it’s hoped that the ban will encourage innovation in the development of alternatives to plastic which will bring new economic opportunities. A paper straw factory opened in Wales last year, and it’s been contracted to provide straws to all of McDonald’s UK and Ireland restaurants. Another facility is being developed in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, and it’s set to create 100 jobs.
The story in the rest of the UK
So jobs have been created in Wales and Northern Ireland, but the full ban will only extend to England. What’s happening in the rest of the UK?
The Scottish government proposed a ban on plastic straws back in 2018, but there has been little movement since then. But it has stated that it’s looking to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds in its 2018-2019 Programme for Government.
The Welsh government has previously floated ideas about a tax on disposable plastics, though progress has slowed in favour of discussions with the UK government on reforms to the UK recycling and waste management system.