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Plastic Straws, Stirrers, And Cotton Buds Are Banned In England From Today

Alice Lorenzato-Lloyd Alice Lorenzato-Lloyd

Plastic straws ban

Businesses can no longer sell or distribute these plastic items from October 1 – a win in the fight against plastic!

It’s official. From today you won’t be finding a plastic straw in your Starbucks Frappuccino in England. In order to combat plastic pollution, a law banning the distribution and sale of plastic straws, plus stirrers and cotton buds has been enforced.

The Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) first confirmed the legislation to phase out these items in May 2019, initially setting the deadline for April 2020. However, due to the impact of Covid-19 on the supply chains of these items – and with public health concerns taking priority over plastics reduction – DEFRA confirmed earlier in April that the date would be changed to October 1, 2020.

paper straws

From today, it is illegal in almost all circumstances for businesses to give them out to customers, with exemptions in place to protect disabled people and those with medical conditions who require plastic straws. Meanwhile, cotton buds may be used for scientific purposes, including medical use, research and forensic criminal investigations. Businesses will be encouraged to switch to alternatives such as paper-based materials or to remove the items altogether. To reduce plastic waste, some businesses have even adopted some more unique alternatives to plastic straws, such as ones made from pasta or rice.

If you’ve seen documentaries by record-breaking Instagram newbie Sir David Attenborough, you will know that plastic waste is affecting ocean wildlife dramatically, and change needs to happen. Fast. The ban is part of the government’s commitment to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste. Other commitments include imposing charges on single-use plastic items; implementing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers; and introducing more consistent recycling services for households and businesses across England. A recent initiative, for instance, has seen specialised coffee cup recycling points pop up around London, including at commuter hub Waterloo station.

Before the pandemic, DEFRA estimated that this legislation would mitigate the use of around a whopping five billion straws, 300 million plastic stirrers and almost two billion cotton buds annually. An estimated 10% of cotton buds are also flushed down toilets and can end up in waterways and oceans. That’s a whole lot of plastic!