Ban on single-use plastic straws comes into force

Selling or supplying single-use plastic straws and stirrers will be banned from next week, but concerns remain about how the new rules will be policed.

The Environmental Protection (Plastic Straws, Cotton Buds and Stirrers) (England) Regulations 2020 were “made” on 10 September and come into force on the 1 October.

This represents a six-month delay. The bans were due to come into force in April, but Defra officials said that “supply chain disruption due to the Covid-19 outbreak may make sourcing alternatives to single-use plastics challenging”.

Footprint reported back in January that a delay was likely after Defra started briefing that a summer deadline was more realistic. The coronavirus crisis pushed the regulations back further.

Sales of single-use straws and stirrers made from other materials can continue, as can those of “reusable alternatives”, according to the government’s guidance.

Plastic products bought prior to 1 October can be sold up until 1 April 2021. From 3 July 2021 drinks manufacturers will not be permitted to sell products with single-use plastic straws attached to the packaging.

Catering establishments can provide plastic straws on request for “immediate consumption”. However, they must not offer them or have them on show. Plastic straws can also be supplied for medical purposes.

Care homes, prisons and schools are also exempt but “where possible, these establishments should find alternatives to single-use plastic straws”, the government said.

Businesses found to be breaking the rules will face fines. However, Phil Conran, director at the consultancy 360 Environmental, said: “It will be interesting to see how this gets communicated – and enforced – to the hundreds of thousands of small retailers, cafés, restaurants, pubs [and] catering companies, especially as the 'regulator' will be local authorities who are not exactly over-resourced for existing commitments.”

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