The 2020 Ban on Plastic Straws

In May 2019, Michael Gove, the British environment secretary at that time, confirmed that in 2020 several plastic items will be banned. This will include straws, cotton buds and stirrers. The announcement has mostly been welcomed by environmental campaigners. It is hoped that the ban will lead to the widespread use of natural straws made from more sustainable materials. This could include reusable bamboo straws.

Reasons for the Ban


Disposable plastic items have been a significant cause of global pollution. Every year the UK population alone gets through an estimated 4.7 billion straws, 316 million stirrers and 1.8 billion cotton buds made from plastic. Around 10 per cent of plastic cotton buds make their way into the sea after being flushed away.

The new law is not the first one aimed at cracking down on pollution. In 2018 there was a ban on microbeads after their devastating effects on the environment were discovered. In 2015, a five pence charge for plastic bags was introduced in shops. As a result, nine billion fewer bags have been distributed.

Rather than stop people using straws altogether, the new law is likely to encourage people to replace plastic ones with bamboo straws. There will be exemptions to the ban on people with specific medical needs and disabilities. They will still be permitted to continue using plastic items. The law will come into effect in April 2020.

Responses



Greenpeace UK Many high profile environmental campaign groups such as Greenpeace UK and the Marine Conservation Society have voiced their support for the legislation. While many concerned citizens are likely to support the move towards sustainable straws, there are also concerns that the law will not go far enough. The damage caused by plastic is substantial and will take a considerable effort to reverse.

There are at least 150 million tonnes of plastic in the oceans of the world. It wreaks havoc on entire ecosystems and threatens vulnerable wildlife. Birds, in particular, suffer millions of losses every year as a direct result of plastic. Sea mammals will often consume it or become entangled in it. As a result, more than 100,000 of them die annually.

Public Support


In recent years the scale of the problem is finally being realised by large swathes of the general public. This can be attributed to hard-hitting nature documentaries such as A Plastic Ocean and Planet Earth II. Public support for new legislation has also grown thanks to troubling predictions that the amount of plastic in oceans is set to treble by the year 2025.

By making the shift to natural straws, the amount of future plastic waste will be reduced. Reusable bamboo straws are a cost-effective and highly viable option. It is not just individuals who could help save the planet with natural straws. Restaurants, pubs and fast food chains can also do it.

Only time will tell how effective the plastic ban will be. While the new law may seem small compared to the damage already inflicted, it is still a step in the right direction. The shift to reusable bamboo straws could have a widespread positive effect if it is done on a large scale.
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