Plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds to be banned in England

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Environment Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed a ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers, and plastic stemmed cotton buds in England, following “overwhelming public support for the move”. 

After an open consultation, a ban on these items will come into force in April 2020 and will include exemptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability are able to access plastic straws.  

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The Government’s response to the consultation, published today, found that over 80% of respondents support a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, 90% back a ban on drinks stirrers, and 89% a ban on cotton buds. 

Registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws over the counter or online, but catering establishments such as restaurants, pubs and bars will not be able to display plastic straws, or hand them out, but they will be able to provide them on request.  

The Government believes this is the right balance between decreasing environmental impact, while protecting the rights of people with medical conditions and disabilities.  

An exemption will also be in place to allow the use of plastic-stemmed cotton buds for medical and scientific purposes, where these are often the only practical option.  

A stocktake after one year will be carried out by the Government, to examine the impact of these measures, and whether the balance is correct.  

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment. These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life. So today I am taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution, and ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.” 

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