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

Plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds could soon be banned from sale in England under a Government plan.

The move is aimed at protecting rivers and oceans from the growing problem of plastic pollution.

It will also help the Government meet the requirements of a 25-year plan to eliminate avoidable plastic waste - a policy inspired by Sky's Ocean Rescue campaign.

Subject to a consultation which is to be launched later this year, the products would be banned from sale and officials would work with industry to develop alternatives.

Theresa May used the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London to urge other leaders to "join the fight" against plastic pollution.

The Prime Minister said: "Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

"The UK Government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbeads ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

"The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines.

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

There are around 8.5 billion plastic straws thrown away each year, contributing to at least 150 million tons of plastic in the 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.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "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."

The Government is allocating £61.4m to boost global research and help Commonwealth countries stop plastic waste from entering the ocean.

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: "It is important that the Government follows up by going beyond phasing out plastic stirrers, cotton buds and straws, for those who don't need them. Other non-recyclable 'problem plastic' should also be banned at the earliest opportunity."

Labour shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman said: "The Government has failed to bring forward a single piece of primary legislation on any of their announcements on the environment, farming or animal welfare since the last election.

"With the UK leaving the EU in less than 12 months, there is a worrying lack of preparation to reassure the public that environmental standards won't suffer."

:: 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