England is banning plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton-tip swabs in the country starting in April 2020. The country is hoping to reduce the amount of plastic trash that is littering the country's shores and oceans, and eliminating the 5 billion disposable straws that people use each year in the country is a huge step in that direction.
According to The Guardian, the sheer amount of plastic that hits the U.K.'s waterways is harming the environment and wildlife. Each year, people in England use 5 billion plastic straws, 300 million plastic stirrers, and 2 billion Q-tips. Over 80 percent of people in the U.K. want a ban on plastic straws in favor of moving people toward more sustainable options like forgoing a straw or using a reusable straw.
There will be exceptions to the rule. People with medical necessities or disabilities will be able to continue to use disposable straws, stirrers, or cotton buds, and registered pharmacies will be able to continue to sell the products. Restaurants, bars, pubs, and other food purveyors, on the other hand, will be banned from displaying or giving out the banned plastics unless someone requests them.
Environmentalists are hailing the move as a huge step toward reducing plastic in the environment.
"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 against plastic pollution," said Hugo Tagholm of Surfers Against Sewage.Others say that the move is only a chip out of a much larger issue.
"These three items are just a fraction of the single-use nasties that are used for a tiny amount of time before polluting the environment for centuries to come," said Emma Priestland of Friends of the Earth. "Ultimately, we need producers to take responsibility for the plastic pollution caused by all their products, whether it's bags, balloons, packets, containers or otherwise. That's why we're campaigning for legislation to cut back on pointless plastic across the board."
This latest move is just part of a large effort going on throughout the EU to reduce the plastic waste entering the environment. Earlier this year, the European Parliament voted to ban plastic cutlery, cotton swabs, plastic straws, and disposable stirrers. It also targeted single-use polystyrene cups.
The measure would also require wet wipes, sanitary towels, and tobacco filters that contain plastic to carry a warning about the environmental impact of such products.