UK government announces plans to ban plastic straws, cotton-buds, and stirrers

The U.K. government has laid out plans to prohibit the distribution and sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

The ban, which is subject to a consultation launched on Monday the 22nd, would be enforced “at some point between October 2019 and October 2020”.

In England alone, the government said that people use an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds per year.

The environmental impact of using such items is significant, with the government stating that they take hundreds of years to break down. It added that there were more than 150 million tons of plastic in the planet’s oceans.

The government said its proposed ban would contain some exemptions and noted that there were scenarios where the use of plastic straws was necessary for medical and accessibility reasons.

The U.K. government has launched several initiatives aimed at tackling the pollution caused by plastic, including a ban on microbeads and a charge on single use plastic bags.

The proposals were welcomed by environmental organizations. Sam Chetan Welsh, Greenpeace U.K.’s political adviser, said ministers were doing the sensible thing by looking to ban single-use plastic items, but added that if oceans were to be protected from the “scourge of plastic” then the flow of waste needed to “be cut off at the tap.”

“And that means the companies producing and selling all this packaging must take responsibility for it and cut down the amount of plastic ending up in our shopping baskets,” Chetan Welsh added.