Cotton buds, stirrers and plastic straws could be banned in England as the government increases their efforts to cut down on plastic waste.
Prime Minister Theresa May is set to unveil the new plan today, April 19, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, as she urges other leaders to join the fight against plastic pollution.
The ban, which could be put in place as early as next year, aims to protect rivers and oceans from the growing problem.
These single-use plastic items have a huge impact when they’re either littered or discarded incorrectly after use, with a recent study showing around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away in the UK each year.
In her announcement, the Prime Minister dubbed these items as being one of ‘the greatest environmental challenges facing the world’ right now.
Encouraging the 52 other leaders at the Commonwealth summit to support her cause, she added:
This is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
The UK government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.
Alongside our domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics, with £61.4million funding for global research and to improve waste management in developing countries.
The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines. Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.
Several restaurants and shops have already announced plans to stop selling or using plastic straws, including McDonald’s, Iceland, Pizza Express and pub chain JD Wetherspoon.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove added:
Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now.
We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on straws, stirrers and cotton buds to help protect our marine life.
We’ve already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use, however it’s only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation – we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic.
There’s estimated to be at least 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans, which causes the deaths of a million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals, every year.
We all need to do our bit to save these beautiful animals as well as our oceans.
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Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.