New rules on sales of some single-use items in England announced

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 22 May 2019

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has announced that plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds are to be banned in England from next year to tackle pollution and protect the environment.

Plastic straws found on beachclean
© Natasha Ewins

We now need Michael Gove to go further in moving to reduce plastic consumption overall and increase recycling rates

Dr Laura Foster,
MCS Head of Clean Seas

The Government’s response to last year’s consultation, reveals that more than 80% of respondents back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, 90% a ban on drinks stirrers, and 89% a ban on cotton buds.

Plastic stirrers will be subject to a total ban and food and drink outlets will not be able to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out. Exemptions will allow those who need to use plastic straws for medical reasons or a disability to buy them from registered pharmacies or request them in restaurants, pubs and bars, and the use of plastic-stemmed cotton buds for medical and scientific purposes will still be allowed.

Dr Laura Foster, MCS Head of Clean Seas says: “We are delighted with this government decision which will help consumers move to a more plastic-free lifestyle.

“Surveys last year during our Great British Beach Clean showed, for instance, that cotton buds were in the Top 10 items found by volunteers - with an average 17 found per every 100m of beaches surveyed in England. It’s right that these items should be banned to prevent even more ending up on our beaches and in the ocean.”

Michael Gove said: “Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment. These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life.

“So today I am taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution, and ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.”

However, Dr Foster, says more still needs to be done: “While we strongly welcome today’s announcement, we now need Michael Gove to go further in moving to reduce plastic consumption overall and increase recycling rates, particularly with a fully inclusive deposit return scheme for bottles and glass.

“It’s clear that the public mood has changed and what we need to see now is further action by retailers and the government to encourage a move against all single use plastic and to improve recycling.”

Actions you can take

  1. Join the Plastic Challenge
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2018
  3. Take your own reusable bottle out and about
  4. Survey showing public support
  5. Learn about Deposit Return Systems
  6. Help us stop the plastic tide
  7. Report your #wildbottlesighting using our form
  8. See our map of reported bottle sightings

Did you know?…

On UK beaches levels of litter have doubled in the past 20 years

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces