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Government ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds begins

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A number of discarded cotton buds and other pieces of litter lying on a beach

Yesterday saw the commencement of our England-wide ban on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, just one month after confirming that the single-use plastic carrier bag charge would also be increased to 10p and extended to all shops.

The start of the ban attracted widespread positive coverage, including in The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, The Sun, The Independent, The Metro, BBC News Online, Sky News Online and ITV News Online.

In addition, the Daily Telegraph today looks at alternative cotton buds and cosmetic accessories, which are made from sustainable materials including bamboo.

It is estimated we use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England every year, many of which find their way into our ocean.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

"Single-use plastics cause real devastation to the environment and this government is firmly committed to tackling this issue head on.

"We are already a world-leader in this global effort. Our 5p charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95% in the main supermarkets, we have banned microbeads, and we are building plans for a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers.

"The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations."

As well as protecting the environment, disabled people and those with medical conditions will also be protected, who will be able to request a plastic straw when visiting a pub or restaurant and purchase them from pharmacies. Plastic cotton buds will also be permitted for medical, research and forensic uses. Other exemptions and guidance can be found on the Defra website.

Other key government actions on plastics include a world-leading ban on microbeads, consulting on introducing a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers, and committing to a ban on the export of polluting plastic waste to non-OECD countries. As announced recently, the 5p charge on single-use bags will be doubled to 10p and extended to all retailers from April 2021.

The government will also introduce a new world-leading tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022 to encourage greater use of recycled plastic.

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