Plastic straws could be banned throughout England
Plastic straws and cotton buds could be banned across the country as part of the UK government’s efforts to cut down on waste.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced that there will be a consultation into some banning some prevalent single-use plastics, including plastic straws and cotton buds at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on Friday 19 April.
Around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown out in the UK every year, May said, much of which winds up in oceans which contain some 150 million tonnes of plastic waste.
She said that the UK was a “world leader” when it came to cutting down plastic waste, citing recent policy changes from banning micro-beads in cosmetic products to 5p charges on plastic bags in supermarkets.
Queen Elizabeth II opened the summit at an event at Buckingham Palace on Friday, attended by diplomats and presidents from the 53 Commonwealth states.
“The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines,” she said.
“Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.”
The news comes as scores of UK hospitality firms are beginning to change their policies on plastic waste, while some environmental campaigners are attempting to tax single-use plastic products in an effort to discourage their use.
Back in February a petition calling on pubs to charge punters 5p for using plastic straws passed 10,000 signatures, while bar groups such as Wetherspoon’s have been enforcing plastic straw bans since September 2017.
The petition, which was launched by environmental campaign group Final Straw, said that charging customers for straws would mean that serves could only hand out straws on request, which could “dramatically reduce waste.”
Final Straw’s campaign is inspired by the 5p charge on plastic carrier bags in England which was introduced in October 2015.
“Every year 100,000 marine mammals and turtles are killed by plastic pollution,” read a post on Final Straw’s Facebook page. “Every year 1 million seabirds die as a result of our carelessness when it comes to plastic waste.”
“Following the introduction of the 5p charge on plastic carrier bags in England, usage fell by 85% in just 6 months. We can achieve the same with plastic straws.”
While there is widespread support in the industry for cutting waste, and groups such as Marriott and All Bar One have already removed plastic straws from their businesses, many industry leaders are reluctant to back an initiative which would force consumers to pay more for their drink.
At the height of the petition’s popularity Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), told the drinks business: “Voluntary action to remove plastic straws and offer environmentally alternatives is preferable to legislation or new taxes.”