Government set to ban plastic straws and cotton buds in drive to clean up the oceans
Plastic straws and cotton buds are set to be banned in England from next year in the latest Government bid to protect marine life.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove - who floated the idea earlier this year - will launch a consultation in the coming months on outlawing the products which he branded “lethal” to the environment.
The move is a major step in the Government drive to stop plastic waste filling the world’s oceans devastating marine life.
Some 8.5bn plastic straws are thrown away in the UK every year, ministers said, contributing to at least 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans.
Mr Gove said: "We've already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use.
"However, it's only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation - we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic."
In an article for the Times, he added: “We have targeted these products because they are already available (or can be developed) in alternative forms but when discarded they remain a polluting presence for hundreds of years. Their legacy can be lethal.
“Once our need for them has passed, far too many are flushed down the drain before finding their way into rivers and seas.
“There, they have been found blocking the noses of sea turtles and perforating the stomachs of penguins.”
'JOIN THE FIGHT'
Theresa May will meanwhile urge Commonwealth leaders to follow suit, arguing plastic waste is "one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world".
Pointing at the recent bans on plastic bags, microbeads and a planned drinks container return scheme, the Prime Minister said the UK was a “world leader” in tackling plastic waste.
"Alongside our domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics," she said.
"The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines.
"Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it."
'LACK OF PREPARATION'
But Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman said: "The Government has failed to bring forward a single piece of primary legislation on any of their announcements on the environment, farming or animal welfare since the last election.
"With the UK leaving the EU in less than 12 months, there is a worrying lack of preparation to reassure the public that environmental standards won't suffer."
Environmental campaigners welcomed the plans but urged the Government to go further in banning all but the most essential disposable plastics.