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plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds will be banned as of next year

Well, you shouldn’t be cleaning out your ears with cotton buds anyway!

by Roisin Lanigan
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23 May 2019, 10:40am

As the world finally wakes up and takes notice of our climate emergency and the environmental disaster we’re in, single use plastic products are at last being eliminated. In a bid to help fight plastic waste, which is currently clogging up the world’s oceans, today it was announced that plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers will be banned in England by 2020.

As of April next year all pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants will be banned from displaying plastic straws, and won’t be able to hand them out. The move received huge support from the public, with more than 80% supporting the ban in a government consultation. The support was up to 90% on a ban for drink stirrers, and 89% for cotton buds.

Much of the debate around plastic straws noted that the dialogue from environmentalists could often stray into ableism, failing to take into account that some disabled people need plastic straws to be able to drink. Fortunately, the new law takes this into account, and those who need plastic straws for medical reasons will be able to buy them at pharmacies or request them in food and drink establishments.

Plastic stemmed cotton buds, meanwhile, will from 2020 only be used for medical and scientific reasons. The ban is hoped to save millions of pounds every year on plastic waste disposal. The government found that currently, 10% of cotton buds are flushed down toilets, which end up in waterways and oceans, remaining there without breaking down and irreparably damaging marine ecosystems.

“Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment,” the Environment Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement. “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.”

Considering that by estimate, nearly five billion straws, two billion cotton buds and 316 million plastic stirrers are used each year in England, the ban will be a huge step in the right direction for eliminating plastic waste. Bring on the metal reusable straws I guess!