Government confirms ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England

Plastic straws, drinks stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds will be banned in England, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced, with the legislation coming into effect in April 2020.

After a growing public campaign against single-use plastics, straws and cotton buds in particular, the items will no longer be available for sale or distribution, meaning that food and drink catering facilities will not be allowed to offer straws freely and no retailers will be able to stock the items.

However, there are some exemptions: those requiring straws for medical reasons (i.e. disabled people who cannot drink without them) will still be able to request them, and licensed pharmacies will be able to stock them for sale. In addition, the government has acknowledged that cotton buds are sometimes ‘the only practical option’ for use in medical practice, scientific research and forensic investigations, and will therefore allow an exemption in these cases as well. The measures will be assessed after a year to see what sort of impact they have had.