The Government of the United Kingdom has announced the end of the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds at the beginning of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit.
In order to eliminate these items from use, the government will work with the industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt. It will also propose excluding plastic straws for medical reasons.
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. A recent study showed that 8.5 billion plastic straws were thrown away each year in the UK.
The announcement came as the prime minister urged all Commonwealth countries to sign up for the newly-formed Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance and take action, be this by a ban on microbeads, a commitment to cutting down on single-use plastic bags, or other steps to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.
To drive this forward, the UK government has committed a £61.4 million package of funding to boost global research and help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste from entering the oceans in the first place.
There is over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans, and every year, one million birds and over 1,00,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.
The announcement is the latest move in the government crackdown on plastic, following the plastic microbead ban hailed as one of the world’s strongest bans, the 5p plastic bag charge – which has led to nine billion fewer bags distributed, and last month’s pledge to introduce a deposit-return scheme (DRS) for single-use drink containers, including bottles and cans.
It sits alongside the 25-Year Environment Plan commitment to eliminate avoidable plastic waste. The Treasury has also launched a call for evidence on how charges and changes to the tax system could be used to reduce single-use plastics.