Will post-Brexit Britain ban straws?

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 26 February 2018

Michael Gove has been mocked by a European commissioner for suggesting Brexit would make it easier to ban plastic straws.

Straws in hand
© N Ewins / Marine Conservation Society

The UK uses 8.5 billion straws a year and plastic straws are one of the top 10 items found in our beach clean-ups.

The Environment Secretary said leaving the European Union “actually makes it easier” to ban plastic straws and the live export of animals for slaughter as he outlined his plans for a “green Brexit”.

But European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans hit back, stressing the EU was “one step ahead of you” and was set to bring forward legislation on single use plastics before the summer.

Mr Timmermans tweeted: “.@michaelgove One step ahead of you. EU legislation on single-use plastics coming before the summer. Maybe you can align with us? #EUDoesntSuck #StrongerTogether #PlasticsStrategy”.

We reckon the UK uses 8.5 billion straws a year, and plastic straws are one of the top 10 items found in our beach clean-ups.

Mr Gove told Sky News: “Since I became Environment Secretary nine months ago, there have been a number of things, from banning plastic straws to ending the live export of animals for slaughter, where being outside the EU actually makes it easier for us to do the right thing.

“So, I don’t think there’s any tension. In fact, I think Britain leaving the EU can help us make a contribution to a better planet. That’s why I believe that we are pursuing a green Brexit.”

Mr Gove is among dozens of senior Tories trying to cut down on their plastic use for Lent, with the Environment Secretary recently photographed clutching a disposable coffee cup.

Firms such as JD Wetherspoon, Wagamama, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express and Waitrose have all started phasing out plastic straws or offering them on request only.

MSP Kate Forbes has also recently urged public bodies and companies to crack down on plastic straws and other single-use plastics to save the environment.

Backed by MCS, the SNP member launched a “final straw” campaign, asking businesses and consumers to stop using disposable plastic straws and for governments to ban their use.

She said: “Most of us don’t need plastic straws in our drinks and yet in Scotland we throw away a staggering three billion each year. They’re choking our seas and damaging our environment.”

Starbucks have started trialling a 5p ‘latte levy’ in 35 branches around London. The three month trial is a first for a UK coffee chain and baristas will also offer customers drinking in a ceramic cup to further save on plastic waste.

Actions you can take

  1. Download straw graphic for cafe/bar counter
  2. Download our straw poster
  3. Share #stopsucking
  4. Help us stop the plastic tide
  5. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017
  6. Refuse straws at your local restaurant/bar

Did you know?…

We removed 568,000 pieces of litter from our coasts in one year

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

UK Seas provide us with resources from fish to renewable marine energy