Plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds may be banned - so what should you use instead?

Helena Horton
How will you cope without plastic straws? Read on to find out - PA

The Government is set to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds as early as next year in a bid to help save the environment, which is currently under threat from plastic pollution.

Official figures show that Britons use 44 billion plastic stirrers and 42 billion plastic straws every year.

The Prime Minister has called on all other Commonwealth countries to join in the fight against plastic pollution at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London.

A consultation proposing a ban on single use plastic in England will be published by Environment Secretary Michael Gove later this year.

So, what should you use instead?

Plastic straws

These may well be the easiest to give up - as pubs, bars, restaurants and even McDonald's are taking steps to scrap them independently of the government.

These glass straws are chic and resemble the real thing Credit: juiceglass/food52

MPs are working with local venues asking them to stop using plastic straws and give out paper ones instead.

Roger Spranz, PhD, from Making Oceans Plastic Free, told The Telegraph that there are many alternatives to single use plastics.

He said: "Most single use plastic items will hopefully soon be a thing of the past.

"Reusable bottles, bags and and food containers are a first step. Cotton buds with stems from paper; straws from paper, metal or glass; and stirrers made from bamboo could be the next.

"Natural and reusable materials are in many cases a far better alternative for our oceans and our planet as a whole."

Those who want something sturdier than paper straws can carry around their own reusable glass or metal ones.

Cotton buds

Plastic cotton buds are the number one item of plastic, sewage-related debris found on our beaches and rivers, as recorded by the Marine Conservation Society's Great British Beach Clean in September 2016. 

The plastic holding the two little pieces of cotton together has already been phased out at Sainsbury's.

Plastic cotton buds will be a thing of the past Credit:  Garo/Phanie/REX/Shutterstock

In addition to switching to paper sticks, the supermarket is committing to replacing the adhesive that binds the stem and cotton tips together, for a 100% biodegradable cotton bud.

American multinational Johnson & Johnson Ltd has also changed the sticks in its tradmark blue cotton buds from plastic to paper.

Stirrers

For those who object to stirring their drink with their straw, there are a multitude of options available to purchase.

There are hundreds of glass cocktail "swizzle sticks" for sale on eBay and Amazon, and sets of five can be bought for as low as £5.99.

Impress your friends with these jazzy cocktail stirrers Credit: eBay

Another option is bamboo.

But is this initiative going far enough?

 A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland said: "The Prime Minister's plastic-free vision should be applauded. Plastic cotton buds, straws and drink stirrers are a scourge on our environment and our health. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

"In January the Prime Minister vowed to work with Britain's supermarkets on the introduction of Plastic Free Aisles in their stores. I urge Theresa May to fulfill this pledge urgently, and work with us and the UK's biggest retailers to make Plastic Free Aisles a reality as soon as possible. 

Packing in the plastic | Alternatives on trial

"Plastic Free Aisles are the future of food and drink retail. With growing public despair at the truckloads of plastic being dumped in the ocean each and every day, Plastic Free Aisles will for the first time give consumers choice over what they buy. Where is the logic in wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as indestructible as plastic? 

"The Prime Minister's leadership on plastic is laudable. But we can't afford to wait years for incremental action against it. I'm calling on Theresa May to help Britons turn off the plastic tap before it's too late.

"There are a lot of words still and we need to convert these into action. Let’s hope this consultation is a brief one as we need to act with urgency."

 

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