UK plastic straw and cotton bud ban coming into force in 2020

Plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds will be banned in the UK from April 2020 in a move to reduce the damage of single-use plastics on the environment.

Environmental secretary Michael Gove confirmed the ban today (May 22) after an open consultation, which demonstrated overwhelming public support for the move. Shops and supermarkets will not be allowed to sell the plastic items, while places such as bars, restaurants and spas cannot display plastic straws or hand them out.  

“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,” Gove said in his statement. 

“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.”

However, there will be some exemptions to ensure that those with medical needs or disabilities are able to continue to access plastic straws.

For example, registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws over the counter or online, while restaurants, pubs, bars and other businesses will be able to provide them on request, after many disabled groups highlighted how straws are essential for everyday life and that a total ban could lead to the risk of dehydration. 

This news comes after the long-awaited ban on the use of microbeads in cosmetic products came into force last year, and others think wet wipes could face the chop in the future as the Government continues with its 25-year Environment Plan.  

Plastic-stemmed cotton buds are in the top 10 most common marine litter items that get washed up on the world’s beaches, and many use plastic-based adhesives to secure the cotton tips. 

Even though non-plastic alternatives are readily available, it is estimated that 95% of straws are still plastic, while experts believe there is more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans.

Meanwhile, a free glass recycling service for beauty businesses has launched to help salons meet their sustainability targets. 

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