Straw ban could be delayed

The ban on plastic straws, originally set to come into force in April, is likely to be delayed, Footprint understands.

The government set out its plan to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws in October 2018, with an introduction date of October 2019. A consultation showed majority support for the ban to be brought in sooner, but the date was pushed back to April 2020.

The Queen’s speech, in December 2019, reiterated the April deadline, but those close to government-industry discussions told Footprint that Defra is now briefing that it is more likely to be the summer. Indeed, there is believed to be feeling in the department that many of the dates set out in the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy are ambitious.

Defra stuck with the line that the intention is to introduce a ban on plastic straws, as well as stirrers, in April 2020 and it is currently working to progress the necessary legislation through parliament.

The number of plastic straws used in the UK is unclear. The government’s own impact assessment to back up its ban has also been criticised. “The government has used statistics that appear to be based on zero evidence,” claimed Channel 4 News’ Factcheck in August. Some have suggested the ban is a “quick fix” that overlooks the scale of the challenge.

Many foodservice businesses have been switching to alternative materials, including paper and compostable straws. A Footprint investigation in 2018 cast doubt on such “plastic-free” commitments, with very little evidence that the alternatives are disposed of in the most responsible way, for example at composting facilities.

In its response to the consultation, published in May, the government said the ban “will cover all types of plastic straws including those carrying a biodegradable or compostable standard”.

The government plans to allow exemptions, for example for use in hospitals and for people who need them for medical reasons. The draft regulations, published in October 2019, are available here.

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