England's Plastic Straw Ban Is Finally in Effect
The original date for the ban was postponed due to coronavirus. | Gabriel Gurrola | Unsplash

England’s Plastic Straw Ban Is Finally in Effect

The UK government pledged to ban plastic straws, drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in a bid to improve its impact on the environment.

(Updated October 9, 2020) England has banned plastic straws, drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in a bid to improve its impact on the environment.

The new measure, which took effect on October 1, makes it illegal for businesses to distribute or sell single-use plastic items.

Initially planned for April, the government postponed the ban due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Single-use plastics cause real devastation to the environment and this government is firmly committed to tackling this issue head-on,” Environment Secretary George Eustice said in a statement.

“We are already a world-leader in this global effort. Our five-pence charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95 percent 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,” Eustice added.

An open consultation found that 80 percent of respondents supported a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws. Ninety percent backed a ban on drink stirrers and 89 percent said they wanted a ban on cotton buds.

The law does provide exemptions for those who require these single-use plastics for medical reasons.

Plastic and the Environment

According to the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, England uses 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds every year.

One in ten cotton buds are flushed down toilets and can enter the oceans. It’s predicted that there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean and every year. One million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and becoming entangled in plastic waste.

People are becoming increasingly more aware of the effect of plastic pollution on the planet. But the UK government said plastic levels in the sea could treble by 2025.

Eustice believes England’s ban will help reduce the impact on the planet. It will also set a precedent for other countries to follow suit.

“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,” he explained.