The significance of the use of plastic straws has been up in the air for a while now with environmentalists calling for a ban.
The Environmental Secretary in the UK, Michael Gove, announced that plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds could be banned as soon as next year in the UK.
The Environmental Secretary is making good on a promise to tackle waste and pollution with other measures, including a deposit and return scheme on plastic bottles, to come.
The moves are evidence of how politicians and businesses have woken up to the real public anger over the threat to the environment posed by throwaway plastic.
Mr Gove said: ‘Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throw-away plastic items can cause.
‘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.
‘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.’
The announcement comes in the wake of the Daily Mail’s ‘Turn the tide on plastic’ campaign which is the culmination of a ten year effort to combat waste.
It began with the ‘Banish the bags’ campaign to reduce throwaway carrier bags and was followed by others around microbeads in personal care products, plastic lined coffee cups and plastic bottles.
Mr Gove and campaigning groups have commended the efforts of the Daily Mail and those of Sir David Attenborough, whose Blue Planet II series produced harrowing evidence of the harm caused by plastic pollution in the seas.
Greenpeace UK’s political adviser Sam Chetan Welsh said: ‘Our society’s addiction to throwaway plastic is fuelling a global environmental crisis that must be tackled.
‘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.’
The chief executive of UK Hospitality, which speaks for hotels and eating establishments, Kate Nicholls, backed the legal ban on straws and stirrers.
‘We wholeheartedly welcome this consultation on an issue of vital importance and one which hospitality has already taken significant action,’ she said.
‘Since UK Hospitality’s Unpack the Future of Hospitality summit in the spring, thousands of pubs clubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK have changed their straws and stirrers to biodegradables, or adopted policies that cut or eliminate their use in their venues.
‘The Government is seeking views on how we can cut plastic waste and we look forward to continued engagement to play a part in achieving that goal.’
Chief executive at Keep Britain Tidy, Allison Ogden-Newton, said: ‘Our army of volunteers collect tens of thousands of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds during their litter-picks in their communities and on beaches, week in, week out – removing something from our environment that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
‘On behalf of them and the wildlife and marine life that is so catastrophically affected by plastic, we would like to thank the Secretary of State for taking this action that will make a difference and start to turn the tide on plastic pollution.
‘We hope to see further measures, including a deposit return scheme for all drinks containers including plastic bottles and economic measures to reduce the use of other single-use plastics.’