The UK Government has announced its plans to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers, and cotton buds to protect the marine environment.
This plan is subject to a consultation launched by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
According to Defra, in England, an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used annually.
Although non-plastic alternatives are available, Defra has said that these single-use plastic items are used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down.
From this, the Government has said it intends to introduce a ban on their sale, which would come into force at some point between October 2019 and October 2020, subject to the views collected during consultation.
It has also said that the proposed ban will include all plastics, including compostable plastics such as PLA straws.
Defra has added that there are instances where using plastic straws is necessary for medical reasons, and the consultation will ask for views on how to ensure those who need straws for medical and accessibility reasons can still use them.
Pharmacies, for example, will still be able to sell plastic straws and restaurants, pubs and bars will also be able to stock some straws for use upon request.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throw-away plastic items can cause. In England we are taking world-leading action with our ban on microbeads, and thanks to the public’s support have taken over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p charge.
“I commend retailers, bars and restaurants that have already committed to removing plastic straws and stirrers. But we recognise we need to do more. Today we step-up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”