Published on : Thursday, May 23, 2019
England will ban plastic drinks stirrers, straws, and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs from April 2020. Michael Gove, Environment Secretary issued a statement which said, “Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment”. The ban will have some exemptions. He further said that these items are often used for just a few minutes but it takes hundreds of years to break down, ending up in the seas and oceans and harming precious marine life.
There was a consultation that ran from October 22, 2018 to December 3, 2018, involving 1,602 respondents. The ban followed this consultation according to which about 80 per cent of respondents supported a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, with 90 per cent backing a ban on drinks stirrers and 89 per cent in favor of a ban on cotton swabs.
The U.K. government said there would be exemptions to make sure that people with a disability or medical requirements could continue using plastic straws.
In practice, this means that while restaurants and bars will not be allowed to display plastic straws or ‘automatically hand them out’ they will be able to provide them upon request.
Another exemption will apply to the use of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs for ‘medical and scientific purposes’ where such items are ‘often the only practical option.’
The issue of plastic pollution is a big problem. Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste per year, according to the European Commission. Less than 30 per cent of this is collected for recycling.
The CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, Hugo Tagholm, said the charity welcomed the ban. Stopping the production and distribution of these single-use plastic menaces will prevent them from polluting beaches nationwide.
Several major businesses are already looking to move away from using plastic in their stores. Waitrose now only offers paper straws in its cafes. Fast food giant McDonald’s is rolling out paper straws to stores in the U.K. and Ireland.