The sale of plastic straws and stirrers could be banned as early as next year under new plans announced by the prime minister.
Theresa May marked the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit by outlining plans to ban the sale of these items in England, along with plastic-stemmed cotton buds, as part of the government’s ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.
She called on all other Commonwealth countries to follow suit and join the UK in the fight against plastic pollution.
The plans, which will include a proposed exemption for plastic straws for medical reasons, will go out for consultation later this year. The government said it plans to work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt.
Single-use plastics are a significant cause of both terrestrial and marine litter with studies estimating that 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year in the UK.
“Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now. We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on straws, stirrers and cotton buds to help protect our marine life,” said environment secretary Michael Gove.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of last month’s pledge to introduce a deposit return scheme, or DRS, for single use drinks containers, including bottles and cans; and a call for evidence on how charges and changes to the tax system could be used to reduce single use plastic waste.