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The proposals are subject to a consultation launched by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Subject to the views collected during consultation, the Government intends to introduce a ban on their distribution and sale, which would come into effect between October 2019 and October 2020.
According to the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Government recognizes medical needs for plastic straws.
As part of the consultation, it will seek views on ‘how to ensure those who need straws for medical and accessibility reasons can still use them’.
“For example, pharmacies will still be able to sell plastic straws and restaurants, pubs, and bars will be able to stock some straws for use on request,” said Defra. “The Government will work closely with stakeholders to ensure these exemptions are crafted exactly right.”
According to estimates, 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used in England every year – many of which end up in rivers and oceans.
“Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throw-away plastic items can cause,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
“In England we are taking world-leading action with our ban on microbeads, and thanks to the public’s support have taken over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p charge.
“I commend retailers, bars and restaurants that have already committed to removing plastic straws and stirrers. But we recognize we need to do more. Today we step-up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”
“Our society’s addiction to throwaway plastic is fuelling a global environmental crisis that must be tackled,” Sam Chetan Welsh, Greenpeace UK’s political adviser, added.
“Ministers are doing the sensible thing by looking to ban single-use plastic items that can be easily replaced with better alternatives or that we can simply do without. But this should be just the start.
“If we are to protect our oceans from the scourge of plastic, the flow of waste needs to be cut off at the tap. And that means the companies producing and selling all this packaging must take responsibility for it and cut down the amount of plastic ending up in our shopping baskets.”