A ban of the use of plastic straws, cotton buds and drinks stirrers has come into effect in an attempt to reduce the amount of single-use plastic we consume.
On October 1, it became illegal for businesses to supply these products to customers. The ban was originally due to be implemented in April—but was delayed due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses, particularly the hospitality sector.
Officials estimate that 4.7 billion plastic straws, 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds and 316 million plastic stirrers are used in England every year.
There is an exemption for people with a medical condition or disability—allowing bars, restaurants and hospitals to provide plastic straws for those who require them.
Campaigners have welcomed the move to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, but many are keen for a further crackdown on other single-use plastic products.
Plastics lawyer at environmental charity ClientEarth, Tatiana Lujan, said: “Single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers are some of the most pointless plastics out there. Banning them is a no-brainer, especially because reusable and non-toxic alternatives are readily available.
“But these items form only a tiny fraction of single-use plastics, which litter our environment and release toxic substances and greenhouse gas emissions when incinerated – and even when they’re made.
“Other countries like Ireland and France have shown far more ambition than the UK, with targets on reusable packaging and deposit return schemes.”
The ban comes after the Government announced the price of plastic carrier bags will double to 10p from April next year across all shops in England to reduce the amount of plastic pollution they cause.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Our 5p charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95% in the main supermarkets, we have banned microbeads, and we are building plans for a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers.
“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.”