Plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers banned by UK government

Marco Verch / Flickr

The government has announced it will take action to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in a bid to reduce plastic waste.

The measure comes into force in April 2020 and means food and drink outlets will no longer be able to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out to customers.

The ban will include exemptions to ensure that those with medical needs and disabilities are still able to access plastic straws.

David Holt / Flickr

The move follows an open consultation and ‘overwhelming public support’ for the measures, with 80% of respondents supporting a ban on the sale of plastic straws, 90% backing a ban on drinks stirrers and 89% backing a ban on cotton buds.

An exemption will also be in place to allow the use of plastic-stemmed cotton buds for medical and scientific purposes, where these are the only practical option.

The environment secretary Michael 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.

According to the government, England uses 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds. In addition to this, an estimated 10% of cotton buds are flushed down toilets and can end up in waterways and oceans.

Despite a big push in recent years to introduce paper alternatives to plastic straws, it is estimated that 95% of all straws are still plastic.

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