The UK government has announced a ban on single-use plastics from April 2020.
The ban covers plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds and follows a consultation that found overwhelming public support for the move.
Those with medical conditions and disabilities will still be able to access plastic straws, with pharmacies able to sell them and restaurants, pubs and bars able to provide them on request.
In England it is estimated that 4.7bn plastic straws, 316m stirrers and 1.8m plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used each year. An estimated 10% of cotton buds are flushed down toilets and end up in waterways and oceans. An exemption will allow cotton buds to be used for medical and scientific purposes.
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.”
It is estimated that 95% of straws are plastic, despite alternatives, and there are more than 150m tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans, with more than 100,000 sea mammals dying each year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.
The government has already introduced a ban on microbeads and a 5p plastic bag charge. It is consulting on a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans.
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