Plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds banned in England from today

1 October 2020, 09:00 | Updated: 1 October 2020, 09:06

Environment Secretary on the banning of cotton buds

By Asher McShane

A ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds comes into force today as part of efforts to tackle plastic pollution.

From today it is illegal for businesses to supply plastic straws, drinks stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds to customers, with exemptions in place to protect disabled people and those with medical conditions who require plastic straws.

The Government said it was the latest step in the fight against single-use plastic waste to protect the environment and oceans.

An estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds were used in England each year, officials said.

The ban on the plastic products had been due to come in in April but was delayed until October due to the challenges coronavirus posed to businesses.

Plastic cotton buds are banned from today
Plastic cotton buds are banned from today. Picture: PA

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: "Single-use plastics cause real devastation to the environment and this Government is firmly committed to tackling this issue head on.

"Our 5p charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95% in the main supermarkets, we have banned microbeads, and we are building plans for a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers.

"The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations."

Campaigners welcomed the move but said the items formed only a "fraction" of the plastic waste littering the environment.

Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner Sion Elis Williams said: "The Government must get tougher on plastic with short and longer-term targets that are legally binding in its Environment Bill, currently passing through Parliament.

"What is then needed is a strong framework to check that standards have been met, in doing these things there is a hope of stemming the tide of plastic pollution.

"Ministers must also do more to challenge our throwaway culture by forcing a shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives."

Tatiana Lujan, plastics lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth, said: "Single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers are some of the most pointless plastics out there. Banning them is a no-brainer, especially because reusable and non-toxic alternatives are readily available.

"But these items form only a tiny fraction of single-use plastics, which litter our environment and release toxic substances and greenhouse gas emissions when incinerated - and even when they're made.

"Other countries like Ireland and France have shown far more ambition than the UK, with targets on reusable packaging and deposit return schemes."