Single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds will be banned from sale and distribution in England from Thursday (1 October), following Covid-19 related delays.
In 2018, five billion single-use plastic straws entered circulation in England
The Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) first confirmed legislation to phase these items in May 2019, initially setting the deadline for April 2020.
In light of the impact of Covid-19 on the supply chains of these items – and with public health concerns taking priority over plastics reduction – Defra confirmed in April that the date would be changed to 1 October.
The Department has this week confirmed to media representatives and green campaign groups that this decision will be upheld. Businesses will be encouraged to switch to alternatives such as paper-based materials or to remove the items altogether.
No business or organisation will be exempt from the rule, regardless of its size or how many of the items it sells or gives away. However, establishments like hospitals, bars, restaurants and cafes will need to make plastic straws available to those with disabilities or other medical needs upon request.
Pre-pandemic, Defra estimated that the decision would mitigate the use of five billion straws and 300 million plastic stirrers annually. The figure is likely to be lower in the short-term, with businesses that often distribute these items, like airlines and nightclubs, affected by the pandemic.
As for cotton buds with plastic stems, the UK currently uses close to two billion per year. Many major retailers have gotten ahead of the legislation curve by phasing them out already, including Waitrose and the Co-op.