The UK government has announced plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in an effort to cut down on single-use plastics waste.
In an official statement, the government said it “is prepared to ban the sale of these items in England” but added that it will work with industry to “develop alternatives” and ensure there is “sufficient time to adapt.”
“Single-use plastic items such as straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds have a significant impact on our environment, both on land and in our seas and rivers when they are either littered or discarded incorrectly after use,” read the statement.
Recent research by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) estimates that the UK uses around 8.5 billion straws a year, and studies have shown that about 8.8 metric tonnes of plastic waste ends up in our oceans each year. Per the MCS, plastic straws are among the top 10 items found in its beach cleanups.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the proposed ban comes as part of a concerted effort to “help protect our marine life.” “Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now,” says Gove.
The proposed ban has been welcomed by environmental organisations, but some feel the ban needs to be part of a considerably larger effort to cut down on plastic usage.
Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, welcomed the ban but said it’s important that the government goes beyond this ban and tackles other non-recyclable plastics.
“The government has made a strong move on banning some of the most unnecessary single-use plastics,” Edge said in a statement emailed to Mashable. “Reducing the amount of plastic we’re using and discarding is vital for curbing ocean plastic pollution and this could be the start of the elimination of unnecessary throwaway plastic.”
“Other non-recyclable ‘problem plastic’ should also be banned at the earliest opportunity,” added Edge.
The MCS echoed Greenpeace UK’s sentiments that more is needed when it comes to tackling marine pollution.
“It is great news,” Sandy Luk, MCS’s CEO, said in a statement. “But it needs to be part of a whole raft of long-term measures to tackle this huge problem, like levies on other avoidable single use plastic items, a bottle deposit return scheme and fundamental change to the whole way that we produce, use and consume plastics.”
The proposal will be “subject to consultation,” which will be kicked off by the government’s Environment Secretary later on this year.