The government has confirmed a ban on the supply of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England from April 2020.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove made the announcement today following “overwhelming public support” for the move – more than 80% of respondents to the government’s consultation said they back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, 90% support a ban on drink stirrers and 89% back a ban on cotton buds.
The ban will, however, include exemptions to ensure those with medical needs or a disability are able to continue to have access to plastic straws and cotton buds.
Registered pharmacies will, therefore, be allowed to sell plastic straws over the counter or online and while restaurants, pubs and bars will not be able to display them or automatically hand them out, they will be able to provide the straws on request.
A “stocktake” will be carried out after a year to assess the impact of these measures and whether it is correctly balanced.
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 that can end up in waterways and oceans.
More than 150 million tonnes of plastic are estimated to be in the world’s oceans, with the figure set to treble by 2025 if urgent action isn’t taken.
Mr 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 today I am taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.”