Plastic straws and cotton buds could be banned in England under Government plans

The Government says it is prepared to ban the sale of plastic straws, cotton buds and drinks stirrers in England in a bid to cut pollution.

Prime Minister Theresa May said plastic waste was "one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world" and the UK was taking a lead in tackling the problem.

A consultation on banning the disposable plastic products will launch later this year in an effort to cut the amount of waste which ends up in rivers and oceans.

Mrs May said: "The British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

"Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it."

Around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year, contributing to more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world's oceans.

The environmental catastrophe - highlighted by Sky's Ocean Rescue campaign - sees a million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove revealed earlier this year that ministers were looking at outlawing plastic straws.

It comes after Mrs May set out plans to get rid of avoidable plastic waste within 25 years.

A deposit return scheme for single-use bottles is also going to be introduced in England, subject to consultation.

The Government has said it will work with the plastic industry to develop alternative products hit by the proposed ban, which would exclude plastic straws used for medical reasons.

Mr Gove said: "Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now.

"We've already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use, however it's only through government, business and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation.

"We all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic."

Mrs May has urged all Commonwealth countries to sign up to the newly-formed Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance and take action to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.

The £61.4m package of funding will boost global research and help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste from entering the oceans in the first place.

:: Sky's Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at