New measures from 2020
For those looking to see a curb on the use of plastic straws, there is good news in the UK, with the Government saying it intends to bring in measures to curb the use of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic cotton buds.
From April 2020, the aim is to ban plastic stirrers from sale and limit the availability of plastic straws and cotton wool buds.
The move follows a public consultation in which more than 80 per cent backed the idea of banning plastic straws, 90 per cent said plastic stirrers should get the same treatment and 89 per cent said plastic cotton wool buds should go the same way.
What will be the impact?
So what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things. When this story hit the mainstream media in May, some commenters said the response from the UK would be fairly meaningless in terms of plastic pollution of the oceans.
They said countries such as China, India and the United States of America produce far greater problems, with no curbs on the use of plastic and massively bigger populations.
Well, you can't argue with that. They are bigger and the pollution problem is by implication, far greater.
But when it comes down to it, someone has to start somewhere. If smaller nations say 'there is no point in us do anything because we don't pollute as much as others' then those smaller nations will keep polluting and will probably see it the levels of pollution grow, as no checks are put in place.
Taking the lead
To quote Edmund Burke, 'the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing'.
So while some may argue the pollution is not strictly evil, the principle remains the same. If we do nothing then nothing will be done.
There needs to be some leadership in this, so if that is from smaller nations, then so be it.
According to the Government press release on the subject, in England, it is estimated that annually we use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds. An estimated 10 per cent of cotton buds are flushed down toilets and can end up in waterways and oceans.
Hence the need to cut back on this but some exceptions will be made because in some cases there are medical reasons to use plastic straws, so measures will be in place to ensure these people still have access to them.
What did the Government say?
The press release also said: “Catering establishments such as restaurants, pubs and bars will not be able to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out, but they will be able to provide them on request. The government believes this strikes the right balance between reducing environmental impact while protecting the rights of people with medical conditions and disabilities. The government will carry out a stocktake after one year to assess the impact of these measures and whether the balance is correct.”
When measures were brought in to ensure that charges were made for plastic bags in large stores, the demand for the bags dropped dramatically (by 86 per cent, according to Government figures), so it will be interesting to see what the planned stocktake reveals in 2021.
Of course, there were those who tried to beat the system by saying they would take their own bags, rather than be charged, but that was kind of the point.
Maybe, what really needs to happen is for shops to make the bold move and say, ‘we don’t provide bags’.
But this latest plan for a ban on plastic straws is definitely a step in the right direction, and if you want to keep using straws, well that is perfectly fine – just click here to go to our shop, where we stock reusable metal straws. They even come with their own brush for washing up.
To read the full press release from the Government, click here, and you will find plenty more information on the subject within that document.