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Government bans plastic stirrers and display of plastic straws
From: Packaging News

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced new controls on plastic straws, drinks stirrers, and plastic stemmed cotton buds in England.

Following an open consultation, a ban on the supply of those items will come into force in April 2020. However, it will include exemptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability are able to continue to access plastic straws.

The government’s response to the consultation published today (May 22) reveals over 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.

Registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws over the counter or online. Catering establishments such as restaurants, pubs and bars will not be able to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out, but they will be able to provide them on request. An exemption will also be in place to allow the use of plastic-stemmed cotton buds for medical and scientific purposes, where these are often the only practical option.

The government believes this strikes the right balance between reducing environmental impact while protecting the rights of people with medical conditions and disabilities. The government will carry out a stocktake after one year to assess the impact of these measures and whether the balance is correct.

Environment Secretary 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.”

Earlier this year, the government launched a consultation on a plastic packaging tax which does not contain a minimum of 30% recycled content from April 2022.

The British Plastic Federation (BPF) said it supports such measures, whether the items are made of plastic or any other material. In a statement it said: “The BPF strongly supports reduction measures that ensure that straws, cotton buds and stirrers are only used when strictly necessary and that allow those who really benefit from particular items to retain access to them. Regardless of the material straws, cotton buds or stirrers are made from, they have an environmental cost and need to be disposed of responsibly.”

Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), however, doesn’t think the government’s announcement goes far enough. Maddy Haughton-Boakes, CPRE’s Litter Campaigner, said: “While it is fantastic news that the government has taken such decisive action over plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds, we are deeply disappointed that Michael Gove hasn’t taken this opportunity to ban these unnecessary items all together, whatever the material. It’s simply not good enough to switch to so-called “alternatives”, when single-use items should be phased out altogether.

“Without an outright ban, manufacturers will continue to produce them in other “less harmful” materials, while our countryside and environment continues to face the devastating consequences of the vast amounts of waste they create.”

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