Scotland is planning to ban the use of plastic straws as early as next year, according to the country’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham.
The “writing is on the wall” for plastic straws, she said in an interview with the Sunday Mail.
“Legislation can’t be achieved overnight, which is why I don’t want to discourage people from action,” she said. “I would strongly encourage the big manufacturers of straws that the writing is on the wall and they need to be thinking about alternatives now.”
A number of major UK foodservice and hospitality companies have made plastic-free straw pledges recently in the wake of intense scrutiny of single-use items.
However, an investigation by Footprint earlier this month found little evidence that eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws are actually being disposed of in the most responsible way. Some businesses admitted to not actually composting compostable straws at all, while others conceded they have little idea where recyclable paper straws are ending up.
Concerns were raised regarding the waste policies of chains including Pret A Manger, Wetherspoon, Wagamama, Ei Group and Mitchells & Butlers.
In her interview, Cunningham said there would have to be “easily available” alternatives. “It’s about making sure plastic straws are off the shelves and out of the takeaways and diners – and what’s in their place is suitable and recyclable.”
In Scotland, food businesses are required to separate their food waste, which has led to the expansion of collections and more composting and anaerobic digestion facilities.
To date, the UK government has been reluctant to impose mandatory collections of food waste on either businesses or councils. The Bio-Based Industries Association has urged ministers to have a rethink as part of their planned resources and waste strategy.
Responding last week to Footprint’s findings, BBIA managing director David Newman said: “Food waste collections cover less than half the UK population and are often of very poor quality and full of plastic contamination. The real challenge is in making food waste collections ubiquitous, high quality and regular; then compostable packaging would have a route back to recycling and enable our society to reduce plastic waste and increase the amount of wasted food we return to soil as compost.”
The government is soon expected to publish a new bioeconomy strategy. A full resources and waste strategy will follow by the end of 2018.