UK Government Plastic Straw Ban

Goodbye Problem Plastic - UK Set to Ban to Single-Use Straws

It’s estimated that a staggering 4.7 billion plastic straws are used every single year in the United Kingdom, a truly frightening figure when you factor in the damage waste plastic has on our oceans and marine wildlife.

The reality is that these plastics are virtually impossible to recycle, however the cheap and durable nature of Polypropylene has meant that manufacturers have been churning out environment-harming plastics at a rate of knotts over the years to meet huge demand.

Sadly, most recycling centres around the world refuse to accept plastic straws made from Polypropylene due to the fact they’re small, thin and bend easily, making them an ideal foe for their intricate machinery. Because of this they’re sent to landfill sites before eventually making their way to our oceans where they cause unrivalled chaos and destruction.

Unlike other materials plastic straws are not biodegradable, instead they break down into smaller pieces known as microplastics. Not only do microplastics carry harmful pollutants, but they’re also ingested by sealife, putting our ecosystem at great risk.

A harrowing report from the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation suggests that if we carry on the way we have been doing there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. It’s statistics like this that led campaigners to push for a ban on single-use plastic straws within the United Kingdom.

What Is the UK Government Doing to Combat Single-Use Plastic Straws?

A consultation ran by the UK Government published in May 2019 revealed that over 80% of respondents strongly backed a ban on the sale and distribution of several common single-use plastic products, and as a result then Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced that a ban would come into force in April 2020.

Due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic a temporary delay was placed on any legislation banning the sale and distribution of plastic drinking straws, plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic stirrers. This was to ensure that no more additional demands were placed on stretched local authorities during the crisis.

However, two months later in June, legislation was approved in the House of Commons which will see all three products phased out in favour of more environmentally friendly alternatives starting from October 2020. The only exception to the ban are individuals with specific medical needs or a disability that sees them require a flexible straw to drink liquids.

Despite the welcome news, the delay in implementing the plastic ban has been met with criticism from a number of campaigners, charities and those within the government.

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Phillip Dunne MP expressed his dissatisfaction publicly, stating: "The UK is a world-leader in environmental protection. While it is completely understood that the response to coronavirus should dominate Government resources currently, it is crucial that the pandemic does not threaten progress being made with relatively straightforward steps to leave the environment in a better state than we found it."

Others have also expressed fears that the delay in implementation is a means to ‘water down’ the legislation that could potentially lead to severe consequences further down the line.

What Is the Rest of the World Doing About Single-Use Plastic?

Members of the European Union are amongst those leading the way in the fight against single-use plastics. A new law ‘The Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive’ was passed in European Parliament in March 2019.

The law looks to ban single-use plastic by 2021, putting in place stricter recycling targets for EU member states. The directive also goes further than the UK’s ban, with single-use plastic cutlery (chopsticks, forks, knives and spoons), single-use plastic plates, plastic straws, cotton buds, oxo-degradable plastics, food containers, expanded polystyrene cups and plastic balloon sticks all being outlawed.

Whilst a number of kinks are expected along the way, most member states have shown great initiative and enthusiasm in moving forward with plans, with Germany announcing they intend to meet the target by banning all single-use plastics by July 2021.

Around 60 countries have already banned single-use plastic partially or fully, with most of the legislation focusing around plastic bags first and foremost.

Surprisingly, a number of African nations have spearheaded initiatives with Kenya completing banning plastic bags in 2017, imposing a $40,000 dollar fine and potential imprisonment for those caught breaking the rules. Neighbours Tanzania and Rwanda have also adopted strict but effective measures as well.

Elsewhere the Indian government announced they plan to eliminate all single-use plastics by 2022 whilst Bangladesh, South Africa, China, Australia and Italy have all banned thin plastic bags over the last decade or two.

In the United States; New York, California and Oregon have banned some forms of plastic however the fact that laws and regulations are made state by state means that unfortunately there are no country-wide targets or goals.

Corporate Responsibility and Reducing the Use of Plastics

Within the corporate world many multinational businesses have made a commitment to reducing the use of plastic straws, most notably McDonald’s. Here in the UK the fast food chain replaced all of their plastic straws with paper ones in September 2018, however as we’re sure you’re aware the move wasn’t overly well received by customers, with many complaining the straws weren’t fit for purpose.

eCommerce giants Amazon only this month announced that they’d completely eliminated single-use plastics within India in a bid to help the country tackle its ongoing problem with environmental pollution.

Coca Cola, one of the biggest producers of plastic waste in the world have pledged to recycle as many plastic bottles as it uses by 2030, however they’ve controversially refused to ditch single-use plastic bottles as they feel consumers still want them.

A number of large businesses in the United Kingdom have made their own pledges to limit or ban plastic straws with Wetherspoons, Pizza Express, Wagamama, All Bar One and Pret A Manger all promising to do more going forward.

What Are the Alternatives to Plastic Straws?

As mentioned, McDonald’s alternative to traditional plastic straws fell flat upon being introduced to consumers in the United Kingdom, with online petitions being signed by tens of thousands of disgruntled customers calling for the chain to put a halt to the rollout.

The main complaint was that the straws dissolve as you use them, with one complainant stating: “It’s like drinking milkshake through an empty toilet roll tube”. In response McDonald’s reminded people that the straw will evolve as the eco-friendly packaging industry develops.

However, if you feel you don’t have the time to wait for McDonald’s (and other restaurants and bars that have adopted these straws) to implement something better there are a number of alternatives available on the market right now.

VASO’s range of premium glass straws have proven incredibly popular not only because they’re 100% reusable, sustainable and recyclable, but for the fact they’re safe to use due to being completely free of toxins, mineral oils and industrial chemicals such as BPA.

Available in four different sizes and with customisable branding these straws are the ultimate compromise for those of you that don’t want to sacrifice taste when drinking something that would usually require a paper straw.

Not only are they designed to be strong, safe and stylish, but they can be used on-the-go thanks to the robust bamboo case that can be purchased alongside the straws.

If you’re not sure whether to take the plunge with these, there are a number of other eco-friendly options out there such as stainless steel and bamboo straws. However they’re much more difficult to clean as you can’t see the inside of the straw and they don’t have the same elegance as their glass counterpart.

What Are the Benefits of Using Your Own Reusable Straw?

Ultimately, the key benefit of using your own reusable straw is safety, especially in unprecedented times in which the coronavirus remains a threat to us all. That extra peace of mind in knowing that you’re not going to come in direct contact with a glass whilst enjoying a drink in a bar or restaurant is well worth the investment alone.

Of course, knowing you’re doing your part to help the environment is another huge factor when it comes to the benefits of making the switch. It’s said that a staggering half a million straws are being used around the world every single day, by buying a reusable straw you’re helping buck a dangerous trend that we hope will soon become a thing of the past.

By cutting the amount of single-use plastic that goes to landfill, and in turn our oceans, we’re protecting wildlife and our fragile ecosystem, reducing the overall economic cost and making the world a much better place to live in.

Single-Use Plastic and Reusable Straws - What Do You Need to Know?

How Long Does It Take for a Plastic Straw to Decompose?

Plastic straws can take over 200 years to decompose, however as they’re not biodegradable they’re always going to be a major problem if they make their way into our oceans.

How Many Animals Die From Ingesting Plastic Straws Each Year?

According to the charity Sea Turtle Conservancy over 1 million marine animals die each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. This isn’t limited to just straws however as there’s an estimated 100 millions tons of plastic in our world’s oceans.

Why Did We Start Using Plastic Straws?

In the 1960s paper straws were replaced by oil-based single-use product ones thanks to advancements in science and technology. Sadly, every single plastic straw that was created using this method still exists today.

Who Was the First Country to Ban Plastic Straws?

France was officially the first country to ban all single-use plastics as part of their Energy Transition for Green Growth Act in a bid to help save the environment.

How Many Single-Use Plastic Straws Are Used in the UK?

Nobody can truly know the exact number of plastic straws that are used each year, however it’s been estimated by that 8.5 million are thrown away in the UK on a daily basis which is 130 straws per person, per year.

Can You Recycle Plastic Straws in the UK?

Due to their small size and flexibility plastic straws are not easily recycled in the UK as they run the risk of damaging intricate recycling machinery. Instead they’re taken to landfill.

Can You Still Buy Plastic Straws in the UK?

You can still purchase plastic straws until October 2020, however they will remain on sale in registered pharmacies for those with disabilities that require them for everyday life.

What Type of Reusable Straw Is Best?

Ideally, any straw that is made from materials that can be recycled and can be reused. Many reusable straws have straws such as bamboo and metal can effect the taste of your drink and may also contain materials to extend their life such as a BPA lining that may be harmful to humans. So opting for straws such as VASO's reusable glass straws is a great option as they are reusable, recyclable, easily cleaned and free of toxins, essential oils and BPA's.

When is the UK Plastic Straw Ban?

The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove announced that a ban on single use plastic straws would come into force in April 2020.

Due to the global pandemic a temporary delay was placed on any legislation banning the sale and distribution of plastic drinking straws, plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic stirrers. This was to ensure that no more additional demands were placed on stretched local authorities during the crisis.

However, two months later in June, legislation was approved in the House of Commons which will see all three products phased out in favour of more environmentally friendly alternatives starting from October 2020. The only exception to the ban are individuals with specific medical needs or a disability that sees them require a flexible straw to drink liquids.

When is the EU Plastic Straw Ban?

Members of the European Union are amongst those leading the way in the fight against single-use plastics. A new law ‘The Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive’ was passed in European Parliament in March 2019.

The law looks to ban single-use plastic by 2021, putting in place stricter recycling targets for EU member states. The directive also goes further than the UK’s ban, with single-use plastic cutlery (chopsticks, forks, knives and spoons), single-use plastic plates, plastic straws, cotton buds, oxo-degradable plastics, food containers, expanded polystyrene cups and plastic balloon sticks all being outlawed.

Most member states have shown great initiative and enthusiasm in moving forward with plans, with Germany announcing they intend to meet the target by banning all single-use plastics by July 2021. Roughly 60 countries have already banned single-use plastic partially or fully, with most of the legislation focusing around plastic bags first and foremost.

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