UK government considers plastic straw banBy Melita Kiely
Many bars and spirits producers have already taken it upon themselves to remove plastic straws from their businesses – and now the UK government could ban them outright in England.
Speaking at the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in London this week, UK prime minister Theresa May said the government is prepared to ban the sale of plastic straws in England, subject to a consultation.
The move comes as part of plans to protect rivers and oceans, and meet the UK government’s 25 Year Environment Plan to eliminate “avoidable” plastic waste.
It is thought some 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away every year in the UK, which can take up to 200 years to decompose.
The prime minister said: “Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which 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.”
The movement against the use of plastic straws has recently been gathering momentum – particularly within the drinks industry.
In 2016, Bacardi pledged to remove plastic straws and stirrers from corporate events.
Since last year, several high-profile drinks groups and bar chains have followed suit. In September 2017, British pub chain JD Wetherspoon promised to ditch plastic straws across its 900-plus pubs in the UK and Republic of Ireland by the end of 2018.
In December, the Straw Wars campaign launched in London, encouraging bars to remove plastic drinking straws from their premises.
Drinks giants Pernod Ricard and Diageo also upped their eco credentials earlier this year by removing non-biodegradable straws and stirrers across their businesses, shortly followed by a similar move from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
There has even been a petition launched urging UK government to charge people for using plastic straws, in the same way consumers are charged for plastic carrier bags.
Michael Gove, UK environment secretary, said: “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.”