The ban on the supply of plastic straws, plastic stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs came into effect in England on Oct. 1, as part of an ongoing campaign to protect the environment, clean up the oceans, and protect marine wildlife, the government said.
It comes just a month after the government further discouraged single-use plastic carrier bags by increasing the charge from 5 to 10 pence (13 cents), and making the charge mandatory for all retailers from April 2021.
The ban was announced in May last year in a move to drive down the consumption of single-use plastic, and ultimately eliminate avoidable plastic waste completely as part of the governments 25-year environmental plan.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the UK was a “world-leader” in the fight against single-use plastics, citing the 2018 ban on microbeads, the tiny pieces of plastic often added to toiletry products, and the carrier bag measures, which have “cut sales by 95 percent in the main supermarkets.”
According to research by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, 1.8 billion cotton buds, 202 million plastic stirrers, and 4.7 billion plastic straws are used each year in England.
Laura Foster, head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said Thursdays ban was “fantastic news.”
She added that due to companies already making the “switch away from plastic,” Englands annual Great British Beach Clean had shown that plastic-stemmed cotton bud litter has fallen from 31 buds found per 100 meters (109 yards) of beach in 2017 to eight in 2019.
The government described the ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds as a “major step” in the fight against plastic waste.
Michael Shellenberger, a life-long champion of the natural world, however, said plastic straws were only a very small part of the plastic waste problem.
In his book “Apocalypse Never” published earlier this year, he said that “when you consider that just 0.03 percent of the 9 million tons of plastic that ends up in oceans every year is composed of straws, banning them seems like a profoundly small thing, indeed.”
The government said that despite the ban on plastic straws, disabled people and those with medical conditions can still request one when visiting a pub or restaurant and that they will be able to buy them from pharmacies.
Several major fast-food and restaurant chains had already significantly reduced or stopped using plastic straws before the ban came into effect.
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