An estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used in England every year, with 10% of cotton buds flushed down toilets which could end up in waterways and oceans.
There are also costs associated with their clean-up and externality costs imposed on the tourism and fishing industries when they are disposed of incorrectly.
Single-use plastic items could take hundreds of years to break down, therefore, the government intends to introduce a ban on their distribution and sale – however, there will be exceptions for medical use.
The government is seeking views and evidence of the additional costs or constraints to business, the impact on the price per unit of the non-plastic alternatives as the scale of production increases and predictions and views on what the extent of the impact on consumers is likely to be.
Mr Gove said: “Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throw-away plastic items can cause.
“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.”