UK will go tough on plastic use, total ban on plastic stirrers

It will be a slow year for plastic manufacturers in England beginning in 2020.

That’s because a ban on plastic drinks stirrers, plastic straws, and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs will be effective in the country next April.


Plastic manufacturers in England would have to completely halt the production of plastic drinks stirrers starting next year. Out of the three plastic elements, only the stirrers will be banned from sale, as statistics show that 316 million of these are used per year.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement:

“Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment,” he declared. “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.”

The ban comes after a public consultation, where over 80% were in favor of banning the distribution and sale of plastic straws. 90% supported a prohibition on drinks stirrers and 89% approved of a ban on cotton swabs.

The consultation, which had 1,602 participants, ran from October 22, 2018 to December 3, 2018.

Drinking straws

The U.K. government assured that the ban would have exemptions, and those individuals with a disability or medical requirement will still be allowed to use plastic straws.

Another exemption will apply to the utilization of plastic cotton swabs in the medical and scientific community, which are often the only practical options available.

On the other hand, establishments such as restaurants and bars will not be allowed to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out. However, they will be able to provide one upon request of a customer.


The government has been considering this ban on single-use plastic items since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II documentaries drew intense public reaction nearly two years ago.

During that time, Gove said that the image of marine life being destroyed by plastic haunted him, and it led him to launch several consultations discussing how single-use plastics could be lessened.


Several major companies are already implementing practices that will lessen their environmental footprint. McDonald’s stores in the U.K. and Ireland have begun using paper straws. Upscale supermarket Waitrose only offer its customers paper straws as well.

According to the European Commission, Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste annually. Only 30% of this massive volume of garbage is collected for recycling.

Though this is surely bad news for plastic manufacturers in England, the opposite is true for environmentalists.


Hugo Tagholm, the CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, said:

“Stopping the production and distribution of these single-use plastic menaces will prevent them from polluting beaches nationwide. It’s a really positive and bold step in the right direction in the battle against plastic pollution.”

We’re glad to see that the U.K. government takes the issue of plastic pollution seriously. Here’s to hoping that more nations will follow their lead, so that we can save the environment before it’s too late.