Straws and cotton buds may be banned

BBC image from Blue Planet II: Bottlenose dolphins with a calf, Red Sea, Egypt. (C) BBC NHU. Photographer: Screen Grab
BBC image from Blue Planet II: Bottlenose dolphins with a calf, Red Sea, Egypt. (C) BBC NHU. Photographer: Screen Grab

Plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds could be banned from sale in England under plans being set out by Theresa May.

The Prime Minister said plastic waste was “one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world” and the UK was taking a lead in tackling the problem.

A consultation on banning the disposable plastic products will launch later this year in an effort to cut the amount of waste which ends up in rivers and oceans.

Mrs May urged Commonwealth leaders gathered in London to follow the UK’s example in tackling the problem.

She said yesterday that “the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds”.

She added: “Alongside our domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics, with £61.4 million funding for global research and to improve waste management in developing countries.”

Around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year, potentially contributing to the 150 million-plus tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans.

The environmental catastrophe – highlighted by the the BBC’s Blue Planet II series – sees birds and mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “The Government has made a strong move on banning some of the most unnecessary single-use plastics.

“Reducing the amount of plastic we’re using and discarding is vital for curbing ocean plastic pollution and this could be the start of the elimination of unnecessary throwaway plastic.

“But it is important that the Government follows up by going beyond phasing out plastic stirrers, cotton buds and straws, for those who don’t need them. Other non-recyclable ‘problem plastic’ should also be banned at the earliest opportunity.

“Greenpeace is encouraging retailers to take responsibility for their products, eliminate problem plastics immediately and to phase out single-use plastic in their own brand products.”