Plastic straws, stirrers for drinks and cotton buds are three items which have officially been banned in England from today.
The delayed ban had the original deadline of April set for the introduction of this new legislation – which stops the sale and distribution of the single-use plastic items – but due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on supply chains, the UK government decided to postpone the ban until now.
This new legislation makes it illegal for businesses to sell or supply the items.
It is against the law in almost all circumstances for businesses to hand these items out to customers, however there are exemptions in place to protect disabled people and those with medical conditions who require plastic straws.
Hospitals, bars and restaurants will be permitted to provide the items to the aforementioned exempt.
Pre-COVID, it was revealed by Defra that people in England use an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds each year.
George Eustice – Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – says Number 10 is “firmly committed to tackling” the problem of single-use plastics. He 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.
“We are already a world-leader in this global effort.
“Our five-pence 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.”
Campaigners have welcomed the move, but said the items formed only a “fraction” of the plastic waste littering the environment.
Sion Elis Williams – of Friends of the Earth – said ministers “must also do more to challenge our throwaway culture by forcing a shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives”.
Tatiana Lujan – of environmental law charity ClientEarth – said that straws, cotton buds and stirrers were “some of the most pointless plastics out there” and the ban on them was “a no-brainer”, but again reminded that they are “a tiny fraction” of single-use plastics and added that countries such as Ireland and France had “shown far more ambition” with targets on reusable packaging and deposit return schemes.
John Read – Founder of Clean Up Britain – also argued that it’s the tip of the iceberg.
He said: “I think the government do deserve some credit for nudging people’s behaviour in the right direction but actually when you look at it, it’s really more piecemeal and symbolic than anything else. We need to change people’s behaviour in a sustainable and permanent way, we need to see a national behavioural change campaign and that’s what we haven’t got in this country at the moment.
“People have got to understand that when they throw away plastic straws, hamburger packets, crisp packets, it’s all their own personal pollution,
“So people understand that they’re doing the damage to the environment.”