Plastic straw, stirrer and cotton bud ban proposed

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 19 April 2018

Plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds could be banned from sale in England under plans being set out by Theresa May.


In the consultations coming up over the next few months it will be key that the Government considers social and environment benefits as well as business costs if we are to have real progress.

Sandy Luk,
MCS Chief Executive Officer

A consultation on banning disposable plastic products will launch later this year in an effort to cut the amount of waste which ends up in rivers and oceans.

The Prime Minister urged Commonwealth leaders gathered in London to follow the UK’s example in tackling the problem of plastic pollution which she said was “one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world.”

Welcoming the announcement Sandy Luk, MCS CEO, said: “It is great news. But it needs to be part of a whole raft of long-term measures to tackle this huge problem, like levies on other avoidable single-use plastic items, a bottle deposit return scheme and fundamental change to the whole way that we produce, use and consume plastics. In the consultations coming up over the next few months it will be key that the government considers social and environment benefits as well as business costs if we are to have real progress.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said it is “vital we act now” to eliminate straws from everyday use – with 8.5 billion thrown away every year contributing to the over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans.

The latest MCS Great British Beach Clean revealed rising levels of throwaway food and drink utensils including cutlery, trays and straws - up almost a quarter (23%) in a year.

Dr Laura Foster, MCS Head of Clean Seas, said: “We’ve found thousands of straws at our beach cleans, and millions of people have seen film footage of the harm they do to wildlife such as marine turtles.”

Subject to the consultation, the government is prepared to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England. Officials will work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt, and will also propose excluding plastic straws used for medical reasons.

The government is already consulting on a throwaway plastic tax. The public have until May 18th to take part. You can show your support here

The Scottish government announced a consultation on plans to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds in January, with MCS saying it could cut the amount of sewage related debris found on Scotland’s beaches by a quarter.

Calum Duncan, MCS Head of Conservation in Scotland, said: “It’s excellent to see Theresa May and Michael Gove tackling single-use ‘on-the-go’ items like plastic straws and stirrers which made up 20% of all litter found during last Septembers Great British Beach Clean.

With Nicola Sturgeon and Roseanna Cunningham ahead of the curve in Scotland we need to see these promises, and more, turned to action across the UK to stop the plastic tide hitting our shores.”

Theresa May has urged all Commonwealth countries to sign up to the newly-formed Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance and take action to eliminate avoidable plastic waste. The Prime Minister told Commonwealth leaders: “Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

“The UK Government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

“Alongside our domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics, with £61.4 million funding for global research and to improve waste management in developing countries.

“The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines. Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.”

Michael Gove said: “We’ve already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use, however it’s only through government, business and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation - we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic.”

The Queen will formally open the summit at an event at Buckingham Palace attended by prime ministers and presidents from the 53 states that make up the organisation.

Do you want to help stop the plastic tide? We are currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take