One month into the ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds
According to the UK government, in England each year it is estimated that we use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds whee 10% of cotton buds are flushed down the toilets and ended up in waterways and oceans.
Now is the time to focus on your businesses’ sustainability efforts more than ever. April 2020 had been the original deadline for the new legislation, which stops the sale and distribution of single-use plastic items. But, as the global pandemic persists, the government postponed the ban until last month, October 1, 2020.
1. Why the ban is taking place
This graph by News Plastic Economy shows that 75% of the plastic we use globally, ends up as waste. It is devastating to think that there has been a rapid increase since the 1990s and never once did it decline shortly. It affects our environment, our oceans and marine life, our wildlife, our food chains, us as current consumers, and the generations to come. With the ban in place, it is the UK government’s hope to reduce our plastic waste and make people more conscious about the waste in the long run.
2. How the ban works
Single-use plastic straws, cotton buds, and drink stirrers are being banned in England from 1 October 2020. Consumers will not be able to buy any of these products in shops other than pharmacies, though catering establishments will still be allowed to supply plastic straws to people that request one. All businesses that supply these products to customers are included in this ban, including retailers and restaurants. Furthermore, hospitals, bars, and restaurants can provide plastic straws to people with disabilities or medical conditions that require them. Business to business sales is also not included in this ban.
3. What the leaders have said about it
John Read, the founder of Clean Up Britain, argue that this ban is only the beginning: “People have got to understand that when they throw away plastic straws, hamburger packets, crisp packets, it’s all their own personal pollution… so people understand that they’re doing the damage to the environment.”
Dr Laura Foster, the Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: It’s fantastic news that the ban on plastic cotton bud sticks, stirrers and straws is now in place. The results of our annual Great British Beach Clean have shown a decrease in cotton bud sticks littering British beaches.
Conversely, Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner, Sion Elis Williams said the Government ‘must get tougher’ with targets set out in its Environment Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament: “What is then needed is a strong framework to check that standards have been met, in doing these things there is a hope of stemming the tide of plastic pollution”.
4. How is the ban affecting different sectors right now
Bigger corporations have already made the switch away from plastic, as well as switching cotton buds and other items- something we need to see more companies doing.
For instance, Morrisons and Waitrose plan to eventually get rid of plastic bags altogether. Sainsbury’s also plans to reduce its plastics use by 50% ahead of 2025. Recently there has been controversy with Tesco increasing the cost of its plastic bags from 10p to 20p. Many environmental groups praised Tesco’s decision but called for a greater rise in price to align with their recommendations. Christina Dixon from the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “Our recommendation is selling bags for at least 70p to truly drive the change we need to protect our environment.”
Fast-food chain Burger King UK also announced that they will no longer include plastic toys with kids’ meals as part of a wider initiative to reduce their impact on the environment.
The hotel industry also started to implement changes such as: no bottled water in hotel rooms; no plastic cups wrapped in cellophane; put out pats of butter and milk jugs instead of individual plastic-wrapped pots; provide shower gel in dispensers or put out bars of solid soap.”
5. The ban is not enough
According to Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, who said: “Of course any ban on pointless plastic is a good thing. But let’s not congratulate ourselves in the UK that we are making any real dent in the plastic waste mountain: “The shocking news is that even if every global government commitment and industry pledge were achieved, it would only reduce plastic pollution by 7% so this ban is clearly a drop in the ocean. We need stronger legislation urgently to tackle the plastic problem.”
Only with ambitious policy and forward-thinking brands and companies, can we truly stop the plastic tide.
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