NEXT year new controls on single-use plastic items will be introduced by the government to reduce ocean pollution.
The measures cover plastic straws, plastic drinks stirrers and plastic cotton buds in England from April 2020. Only plastic drinks stirrers will be totally banned, currently, 316 million are used a year.
Environmental groups have praised the move but say the government needs to take far more decisive action.
The government press release announcing the new restrictions talks of “a ban on the supply of plastic straws” but in reality, the aim is instead to restrict their availability.
Shops including supermarkets will not be allowed to sell the straws but they will on sale by registered pharmacies in stores and online.
According to the announcement, bars and restaurants will not be allowed to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out but they will be able to provide them if people ask.
The government estimates that England’s annual use of straws totally 4.7bn will fall to 44 million when the new restrictions are introduced.
Plastic-stemmed cotton buds, although restricted from general sale to the public, will still be available. Medical and scientific laboratories will be able to buy them for use in research and for forensic tasks in criminal investigations.
Defra reckons 1.8bn plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used and thrown away every year in England.