Plastic straws could be banned within a year as Michael Gove vows crackdown
Plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds could all be banned within a year under a government drive to stop waste clogging up rivers and seas, Michael Gove has announced.
The Government estimates that the British public gets through some 4.7 billion plastic straws a year, as well as 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
An estimated 10% of those cotton buds end up being flushed down toilets where they often end up clogging waterways and oceans.
In a bid to tackle the problem, the Environment Secretary is today launching a fresh consultation on banning the "distribution and sale" of all three products.
"Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throwaway plastic items can cause," he is expected to say.
Mr Gove will add: "I commend retailers, bars and restaurants that have already committed to removing plastic straws and stirrers. But we recognise we need to do more. Today we step-up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it."
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said a ban could come into force between October 2019 and October 2020 "subject to the views collected" in the six-week consultation launched today.
The ban would also allow for "necessary" uses of plastic straws for "medical and accessibility reasons," Defra said, following concern that people suffering from conditions such as Parkinson's disease or muscular dystrophy rely on plastic straws to safely consume food and drink.
Sam Chetan Walsh, UK political adviser to Greenpeace, welcomed the proposed ban, and said Britain's "addiction to throwaway plastics" risked "a global environmental crisis".
"Ministers are doing the sensible thing by looking to ban single-use plastic items that can be easily replaced with better alternatives or that we can simply do without," he said.
"But this should be just the start. If we are to protect our oceans from the scourge of plastic, the flow of waste needs to be cut off at the tap.
"And that means the companies producing and selling all this packaging must take responsibility for it and cut down the amount of plastic ending up in our shopping baskets."