Ban on businesses selling or using plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds introduced

Economy & Politics | Latest News | South East

The ban on supplying plastic straws and stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds has come into force in England today, marking a major step in the government’s fight against businesses using and selling single-use plastic waste.

Just one month after ministers confirmed the single-use plastic bag charge would be increased to 10p and extended to all retailers, today’s commencement of the ban will further ensure the country builds back greener.

It is estimated English businesses use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds every year, many of which find their way into the ocean. By banning the supply of these items, the aim is to protect our marine wildlife and move one step closer to our ambition of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Single-use plastics cause real devastation to the environment and this government is firmly committed to tackling this issue head on. We are already a world-leader in this global effort. Our 5p charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95% in the main supermarkets, we have banned microbeads, and we are building plans for a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers. The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations.”

While making this important step to help the environment, disabled people and those with medical conditions will also be protected, and will be able to request a plastic straw when visiting a pub or restaurant and purchase them from pharmacies.

Industry reaction

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “It’s fantastic news that the ban on plastic cotton bud sticks, stirrers and straws is now in place. The results of our annual Great British Beach Clean have shown a decrease in cotton bud sticks littering British beaches. In 2017 we found an average of 31 cotton bud sticks per 100 metres of beach, and in 2019 we found just eight on beaches in England. This reflects that many companies have already made the switch away from plastic, in cotton buds and other items, something we need to see more companies doing. Only with ambitious policy and forward-thinking brands and companies, can we truly stop the plastic tide.”

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