Plastic straws could be banned by October 2019

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Cut out: the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds would come into force between October 2019 and October 2020
Cut out: the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds would come into force between October 2019 and October 2020
Single-use plastic straws and stirrers could be banned as early as October next year, after Environment Secretary Michael Gove launched a consultation into scrapping the items today (22 October).

In England, it is estimated that 4.7bn plastic straws are used annually, 316m plastic stirrers and 1.8bn plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

In order to eliminate these items from use, the Government intends to introduce a ban on their distribution and sale.

The ban would come into force somewhere between October 2019 and October 2020, subject to the views collected during the consultation, which ends at 11.45pm on 3 December 2018.

The Government did state it recognised there were instances where using plastic straws was necessary for medical reasons and said the consultation was seeking views on how to ensure those who need straws for medical and accessibility reasons can still use them.

For example, pharmacies will still be able to sell plastic straws and pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to stock some straws for use on request.

Commending operators

Upon launching the consultation, Gove said: “Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throw-away plastic items can cause.

“In England, we are taking world-leading action with our ban on microbeads, and thanks to the public’s support, have  taken more than 15bn plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p charge.

“I commend retailers, bars and restaurants that have already committed to removing plastic straws and stirrers.

“But we need to do more. Today we step up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”

UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls welcomed the consultation and said the hospitality sector had already taken significant action on it.

She added: “Since UKH’s Unpack the Future of Hospitality summit in the spring, thousands of pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK have changed their straws and stirrers to biodegradables or adopted policies that cut or eliminate their use in their venues.

“The Government is seeking views on how we can cut plastic waste and we look forward to continued engagement to play a part in achieving that goal.”

Better alternatives

Greenpeace UK political adviser Sam Chetan Walsh hailed the consultation as a “sensible thing” and added this should be the start on a plastic ban.

Chetan Walsh said: “Our society’s addiction to throwaway plastic is fuelling a global environmental crisis that must be tackled.

“Ministers are doing the sensible thing by looking to ban single-use plastic items that can easily replaced with better alternatives or that we can simply do without. But this should be just the start.

“If we are to protect our oceans from the scourge of plastic, the flow of waste needs to be cut off at the tap.

“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.”

Meanwhile, an industry-wide campaign to reduce the amount of single-use plastic​ being used in pubs was launched in partnership by three trade bodies and The Morning Advertiser ​earlier this year (29 January).

The hospitality industry was urged to stop using plastic straws and stirrers, to cut plastic packaging waste and recycle more as part of campaign calls by the British Institute of Innkeeping, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (now UKH after merging with British Hospitality Association), the British Beer & Pub Association and The Morning Advertiser.

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