Plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds to be banned in England

Lucia Binding, news reporter

Michael Gove is taking action on plastic pollution by banning plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England from next spring.

The environment secretary has confirmed a ban on the supply of the items from April 2020 after a consultation revealed "overwhelming" public support for the move.

Around 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are thought to be used in England each year.

Following the ban, food and drink outlets will be unable to display plastic straws or provide them to customers.

The only exceptions include those who need to use plastic straws for medical reasons or a disability will be able to buy them from registered pharmacies or request them in restaurants, pubs and bars, and the use of plastic-stemmed cotton buds for medical and scientific purposes.

Mr Gove said: "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."

The government's response to the consultation, published on Wednesday, reveals that more than 80% of respondents back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws.

Additionally, 90% backed a ban on drinks stirrers and 89% a ban on cotton buds.

It is hoped that millions of pounds could be saved annually on clean-up efforts of used plastics.

An estimated 150 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world's oceans every year, while one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

The latest measures follow Sky's Ocean Rescue campaign, which encourages people to reduce their usage of single-use plastics.

Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: "Single use plastic is a disease of our own making. We're working hard to get rid of it and completely agree with Michael Gove that urgent and decisive action is needed."

Surfers Against Sewage chief executive Hugo Tagholm also welcomed the ban.

He said: "Stopping the production and distribution of these single-use plastic menaces will prevent them from polluting beaches nationwide. It's a really positive and bold step in the right direction in the battle against plastic pollution.

"It is also helps further drive plastic-free options and alternatives for the public so they can truly make more sustainable choices in their daily lives."

Lauren West, from Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: "Plastic straws are sometimes the only type of straw that work for disabled people due to their flexibility and ability to be used in hot and cold drinks.

"We're pleased the government has recognised this in its proposals put forward today."

:: 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 www.skyoceanrescue.com