England’s ban on single-use plastic straws

A ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds came into force in England on 1st October 2020 which makes it illegal for businesses to sell or supply the items. Hospitals and hospitality are exempt from the ban when providing single-use plastic straws to those who require them due to disabilities or medical conditions that mean they require a plastic straw.

It is estimated that in England up to 4.7 billion plastic straws, 300 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used each year. England’s Environment Secretary George Eustice said the government was “firmly committed” to tackling environmental “devastation” caused by single-use plastics.

Although environmental campaigners welcomed the ban but called for a crackdown on further single-use items, warning that these items formed only a “fraction” of the plastic waste littering the environment.

What are other countries doing to help?

Other countries in Europe however have been more ambitious with recent legislation surrounding bans and restrictions on single use plastics.

Ireland is planning a number of measures to reduce wasteful production and consumption of single-use plastics over the next five years. This includes measures such as banning certain single use plastics such as shopping bags and plastic cutlery, a levy on disposable cups, as well plans for a deposit-and-return scheme for plastic bottles and aluminium cans, mirroring schemes elsewhere in Europe. The Welsh government has commended Ireland’s plans and are also considering similar bans on plastic.

France has recently banned all plastic shopping bags, and as of 2020 all disposable plastic cups, glasses, plates and cutlery, with plans to eliminate use of all single-use plastics by 2040.

Is the ban on plastic straws enough?

Although these single-use plastic items are a very potent example of our throwaway culture and also easy replaceable with reusable products, they remain a small fraction of single-use and other polluting plastics that are polluting our oceans. Wider bans and legislation surrounding single-use and non-degradable plastic from governments around the world could drastically reduce unnecessary waste.

Photo Credit - Wildlife By Yuri

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