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22nd May 2019

Plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers to be banned in UK by next year

Kyle Picknell

The UK uses 4.7 billion plastic straws per year

Plastic straws, plastic drink stirrers and cotton buds with plastic stems will be banned from sale and use in the UK by April next year, the government has confirmed.

Following the ban, food and drink outlets will be unable to display plastic straws or provide them to customers.

The move has been in the works for almost a year and comes in a bid to limit ocean pollution – with, on average, 17 cotton buds found for every 100m of beach in England, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Almost 2 billion cotton buds are used per year in this country, along with 4.7 billion plastic straws and 300m plastic stirrers.

Surveys have found that the UK’s waterways are filled with these items, putting wildlife at risk.

There is, however, a notable exception in the form of those who need to use plastic straws for medical reasons or a disability reason. They will be able to buy them from registered pharmacies or request plastic straws in restaurants, pubs and bars.

Use of plastic stemmed cotton buds will also continue for medical and scientific purposes and only plastic stirrers will be banned completely.

The ban, which is called as such in the government press release but for straws and cotton buds appears is evidently more a harsher restriction of their availability, comes after a government consultation found that more than 80% of respondents back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws.

Additionally, 90% backed a ban on drinks stirrers and 89% a ban on cotton buds.

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.

“So today I am taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution, and ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.”