The UK government is taking steps to curb plastic pollution. Starting April 2020 plastic straws, cotton buds, and plastic stirrers, will only be provided under strict guidelines, for medical or scientific reasons.
As part of the government plan to cut plastic waste, retail shops and supermarkets will not be allowed to sell these items but they will be available for sale at registered pharmacies in stores and online. While the UK government press release calls it a ban on these three items, the aim is really a restriction of their availability, explains a BBC news report.
Likewise, bars and restaurants will not be allowed to display plastic straws or voluntarily hand them out to customers. But they will be allowed to provide them for customers upon request.
Customers at a pub in Twickenham, west London, are already ahead with the ban on plastic straws. They are fine about being served only paper straws.
Those enjoying a drink with friends support the ban. One customer said, “You see the protests in London even a month ago. People are stepping up and asking well why is this? Can we do anything to improve this?”
Another drinker said, “Something as small as a straw, you know, we can all do our part and it makes a big difference in the end.”
Every year about 150 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans, according to the Ocean Conservancy.
An estimated 1 million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste, according to Ocean Crusaders.
Pollution activist from Friends of the Earth, Emma Priestland explains that these three items turn up on beaches. “They’re normally in the top 10 most commonly found items on beaches but it is just three items,” said Priestland.
A 2018 report by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs estimated that 1.8 billion individual cotton buttons are used in England each year. Ten percent are disposed of into the sewage system but only 8 percent of this 10 percent goes into the marine environment.
Priestland mentioned the different kinds of plastic pollution. “We have plastic coming from our clothing. It’s even in paint from the tires on our cars. Plastic is everywhere,” said Priestland, calling for more action from the government.
The latest restriction aims to discourage people from single-use plastic usage.
Already customers at the west London Twickenham pub are pleased with the ban.
One says, “If somebody gives me one at a bar, I say: ‘please don’t.’ But then they’ll throw it away, if they have put it in your drink, they just throw it away. So, it’s good replace it with paper.”
Plastics in the ocean will treble between 2015 and 2025, according to a recent report by the Government Office for Science.
Includes reporting from The Associated Press and BBC News