U.K. Secretary of the Environment Michael Gove confirmed a ban on single use plastic such as straws, drink stir sticks and cotton ear buds today that will come into effect in England in April 2020.
Only plastic drink stir sticks will be totally banned –a government report estimates 316 million are used a year in England.
In a statement published today, the U.K. government said it recognizes that “there are instances where using plastic straws is necessary for medical reasons” and therefore will make sure some are available to those who need them.
Shops including grocery stores will no longer be allowed to sell plastic straws, but they will be available to purchase from registered pharmacies and online.
It is estimated that England uses 4.7 billion plastic straws annually.
Cotton ear buds with plastic stems will be available for use in laboratories and by forensic scientists but will be restricted from general sale to the public.
An estimated 10 per cent of plastic-stemmed cotton buds that are flushed down the toilet end up in waterways and oceans. England uses an estimated 1.8 billion of them a year.
The new controls come after an open consultation on single use plastic in the U.K. launched in October of 2018 showed “80 per cent of respondents backed a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, 90 per cent a ban on drink stir sticks and 89 per cent a ban on cotton buds.”