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UK government to ban plastic straws next year

The UK government has confirmed it will ban plastic straws and stirrers in England from April 2020.

Plastic straws and stirrers will be banned next year

The plan to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds was announced in October last year, 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.

Following the six-week consultation, the results revealed more than 80% of respondents support a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, and 90% back a ban on plastic drinks stirrers.

The ban will include exemptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability can continue to access plastic straws. Pubs, bars and restaurants will not be able to display plastic straws but are able to provide them on request.

Registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws over the counter or online.

The UK government will carry out a stocktake after one year to assess the impact of these measures.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality, said: “We fully support the government’s objective to drastically reduce unnecessary single-use plastic.

“We are pleased that the government has recognised the genuine need of some of our customers, with today’s announcement exempting hospitality venues, by allowing straws for customers upon request, which is a practice that the sector was rapidly implementing or moving towards.

“The hospitality sector has voluntarily made significant progress in reducing the availability and use of plastic straws and stirrers, motivated both by a moral duty and our customers’ environmental concerns.”

‘Urgent action needed’

In England, it is estimated that 4.7 billion plastic straws and 316 million plastic stirrers are used every year. Even though non-plastic alternatives are readily available, it is estimated that 95% of straws are still plastic.

It is thought to take hundreds of years to break down the single-use plastic items and cleaning up their effects costs the government millions of pounds each year.

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.”

The ban follows a number of firms who have already moved to tackle plastic straw use.

Drinks giants Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi have also committed to stop using plastic straws and stirrers across their businesses, while drinks industry group the Scotch Whisky Association has pledged its support as part of its Environmental Strategy.

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.

The Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of late-night bars and nightclubs, removed plastic straws from its venues as part of its #nostrawsattached campaign.

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