UK bans plastic straws and plastic-stemmed cotton buds

The measure, originally due to start in April, makes it illegal for businesses to sell or supply the items. An exemption will allow hospitals, bars and restaurants to provide plastic straws to people with disabilities or medical conditions that require them. Government says it was "firmly committed" to tackling environmental "devastation" caused by single-use plastics.

People in England use an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds each year.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the ban but called for a crackdown on further single-use items, they said the items formed only a "fraction" of the plastic waste littering the environment: "ministers must also do more to challenge our throwaway culture by forcing a shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives". They said straws, cotton buds and stirrers were "some of the most pointless plastics out there" and the ban on them was "a no-brainer". They remained "a tiny fraction" of single-use plastics, while countries such as Ireland and France had "shown far more ambition" with targets on reusable packaging and deposit return schemes.

Government is "building plans" for a deposit return scheme to encourage recycling of single-use drinks containers. The Welsh government has said it is also considering a similar ban on plastics. A number of national restaurant chains ditched plastic straws before the ban was announced. (source: BBC news)

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