Plastic Straws to Be Banned in the UK
Plastic straws are on their way out in the UK | image/Starbucks

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

The move was made after 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.

Following the “overwhelming public support,” England has pledged to ban the supply of the plastic items by April 2020, the government’s website said. The ruling acknowledges that some people require plastic straws for medical reasons; the government said it will ensure that those in this position will be able to access plastic straws. Registered pharmacies will be permitted to sell plastic straws over the counter or online and although restaurants, pubs, and bars will not be allowed to display or automatically hand plastic straws out, they can provide them on request. Plastic-stemmed cotton buds will also be allowed for medical and scientific purposes when they are the only practical option.

“The government believes this strikes the right balance between reducing environmental impact while protecting the rights of people with medical conditions and disabilities,” the government’s website wrote, adding that it will assess the effectiveness of these measures in one year to ensure the balance is sufficient.

Plastic Straws to Be Banned in the UK
Paper and reusable steel straws are used to replace plastic versions

Plastic and the Environment

Estimations show that every year, England uses 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds. One in 10 cotton buds are flushed down toilets and can enter our oceans. It’s predicted that there is 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.

Whilst people are becoming increasingly aware of the effect of plastic pollution on the planet, plastic levels in the sea will treble by 2025, the government website said.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove commented, “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,” he said.