Michael Gove announces ban on plastic straws and cotton buds from next year

Posted On: 
22nd May 2019

Michael Gove has announced that plastic straws, drinks stirrers, and cotton buds will be banned in England from next year.

Michael Gove has announced the ban after a public consultation
Credit: 
PA Images

The policy, which will come into force in April 2020, comes as part of a bid to tackle pollution in the seas and halt the damage the products can cause to marine life.

Ministers say the move will “strike the right balance” however by allowing registered pharmacies to continue selling plastic straws to those with medical conditions and disabilities who need them.

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And while restaurants, pubs and bars will not be able to hand them out, they will be able to provide them on request.

The announcement comes after a Government consultation found that 80% of those surveyed backed a ban on straws, with 90% and 89% are in favour of an end to drink stirrers and cotton buds respectively.

Figures have shown that Brits use 4.7 billion plastic straws a year, alongside 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

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.”

Greenpeace UK campaigner Sam Chetan-Welsh welcomed the proposal, but added that the bans "only scratch the surface".

"To really tackle the plastic crisis we need bigger bolder action from this government – including targets to radically reduce the production of single-use plastics and an all-inclusive deposit return scheme for drinks containers," he said.

Lauren West, Trailblazers Manager at Muscular Dystrophy UK, welcomed the decision not to impose an outright ban, which she said could impact on the health of disabled people. 

"We’re pleased the Government has recognised this in its proposals put forward today," she said. 

"We would encourage Defra to continue consulting disabled people and groups like Trailblazers to ensure we are not disadvantaged or targeted and stigmatised for using single-use plastics.”