The UK Government has set out its plan to ban the sale and distribution of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds to help protect our rivers and seas.
The plan, not yet approved and subject to a consultation, has been launched by Environment Secretary, Michael Gove.
It is estimated that in England we use over 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and a massive 1.8 billion plastic stemmed cotton buds.
With over 10% of these cotton buds flushed down the toilet.
Once down the toilet the plastic items can end up in our waterways and oceans.
Launching the consultation, Environment Secretary Michael 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 over 15 billion plastic bagsout of circulation with our 5p charge.
I commend retailers, bars and restaurants that have already committed to removing plastic straws and stirrers. But we recognise 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.
Despite the high street offering a whole host of greener alternatives, it is thought that these single-use plastic items are used just the once.
However, they can take up to hundreds of years to break down, resulting in millions of pounds being spent on cleaning up the effects of littering by the Government
It is thought that by October 2019/2020 that a ban will be in place to stop the sale and distribution of plastic straws and related items incl cotton buds.
However, concerns have been raised that some organisations do still need to use plastic straws.
Organisations, especially those with close ties to the medical profession will still need to use them and as such the consultation is seeking the views from this industry to understand and explore potential alternatives.
In some cases organisations can be exempt from the ban, and the government will work with these organisations to ensure the exemptions are crafted correctly.
Greenpeace UK’s political adviser, Sam Chetan welsh went on to say:
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 be 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. 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.
End up in the oceans
It is thought that over 150 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up every year in the worlds oceans.
As a result of this pollution over one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die each year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.
It is expected, according to a recent report, that plastic waste in the sea is set to treble by 2025.
The UK government is thought to be tackling this issue by investing a further £61.4 million of funding into research.
The government is also looking at further methods to reduce avoidable waste and recycle more as part of its Resources and Waste Strategy which will be published later in the year.