The ban on supplying plastic straws and stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds has come into force in England today.
Last year in May, the UK Government formally confirmed that the phase-out date for the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers, and cotton buds with plastic stems in England would be April 2020.
Due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, this was pushed back to 1 October, partly to avoid causing additional problems to supply chains that were already wrestling with the impact of COVID-19.
The ban has become effective just one month after the government announced that the single-use plastic bag charge is to be raised to 10p, as well as being extended to all retailers, from April 2021. The figures show that the present 5p charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95% in the main supermarkets.
Importantly, disabled people and those with medical conditions will still be able to request a plastic straw when visiting a pub or restaurant and purchase them from pharmacies.
In England, an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used every year, many of which find their way into the ocean.
“Single-use plastics cause real devastation to the environment and this government is firmly committed to tackling this issue head on,” said Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations.”
The UK is leading on a wide programme of overseas engagements, including through the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance and the Commonwealth Litter Programme, aiming to prevent plastic waste from reaching the ocean in the first place.
The government is also committed to launching a £500 million Blue Planet Fund to protect the ocean from plastic pollution, warming sea temperatures and overfishing.
Other government actions on plastics include a ban on microbeads, consulting on introducing a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers, and committing to a ban on the export of polluting plastic waste to non-OECD countries.
The government will also introduce a new tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022 to encourage greater use of recycled plastic.