Ban on single-use plastic ‘better late than never’
A ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, which was due to begin in April, has come into operation six months later.
From this month it is illegal for businesses, including manufacturers and retailers, to sell or supply these items.
Restaurants, pubs and bars will not be able to display plastic straws, automatically hand them out, or offer them, although they and hospitals can provide straws to people with disabilities or specific medical exemptions. Also, straws are also still allowed on drinks cartons until next July.
The legislation, which had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and because the Government wanted to avoid putting additional burdens on firms, asks businesses to switch to alternatives.
“I suppose it is better late than never,” Midlands green energy expert Ron Fox. “Now there should a crackdown on further environmentally damaging items such as cutting back on the production of single-use plastics and bringing an all-inclusive deposit return scheme for drinks containers.”
It is estimated people in England use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds each year with ten per cent of the buds flushed down toilets ending up in waterways and oceans.
As Ron, of Noreus on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park, added: “The problem is these items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas harming marine life.”
It is estimated there is over 150 million tonnes of plastic polluting the world’s oceans and every year around a million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in the waste.
The ban is part of the government’s commitment to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste over the lifetime of their 25-Year Environment Plan.
Ministers pointed out that their initial consultation revealed that 80 per cent of people questioned backed a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, 90 per cent wanted non-environmental drinks stirrers prohibited, and 89 per cent supported outlawing unrecyclable cotton buds.
Ron added that this was another small but positive step forward in the campaign to leave the environment in better condition for the next generation. Already there has been a UK ban on plastic beads in 2018 and then the 5p charge on plastic bags, which has recently been increased to 10p and which had led to nine billion fewer bags being distributed.
The Government is also working on all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025, eliminating avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 and aiming for a target of zero avoidable waste by 2050.
Ron said there were many plastic free alternative including straws made from bamboo, wheat, stainless steel and glass and cotton buds from cardboard or bamboo.
“We need the public’s support to continue this shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives.”
For more information about green energy and pollution problems call Ron on 0845 474 6641.