UK – The UK government has announced a ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds across England, which will take effect starting April 2020.

The ban which has received overwhelming support from the public, will include exemptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability are able to continue to access plastic straws.

An open consultation launched earlier revealed that over 80% of respondents back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, 90% a ban on drinks stirrers, and 89% a ban on cotton buds.

However, registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws over the counter or online to cater for medical needs.

Also, catering establishments such as restaurants, pubs and bars will not be able to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out, but they will be able to provide them on request.

These are efforts the UK government is taking to reduce the amount of plastics used and their impact on the environment and oceans.

“Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

“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.”

Action against plastic pollution

It is estimated that in England, .7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used annually.

Some of these wastes may end up in waterways and oceans leading to environmental pollution, thus need to rid them of plastics.

A recent report estimates that plastic in the sea is set to treble by 2025, and it is estimated that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans, attributed to massive death of sea mammals and birds.

The ban targets to further drive plastic-free options and alternatives, after the government’s bold ban on microbeads and 5p charge on single-use plastic bags.

To reinforce commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, the UK recently published landmark Resources and Waste Strategy and initiated consulting on introducing a deposit return scheme to drive-up the recycling of drinks bottles and cans.

The UK government has also committed a £61.4 million (US$77.8 million) package of funding to boost global research and help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste from entering the oceans.

Earlier this year, the government launched a consultation on a world-leading tax on plastic packaging which does not contain a minimum of 30% recycled content from April 2022.