Plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds (ear swabs) are banned in England starting this October. Originally scheduled for April, the move was switched to October due to the pandemic. It is now illegal in almost every instance for businesses to provide the above to customers, with exceptions made for those with a medical condition.

Source: CGTN/Youtube

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The government and environmental secretary George Eustice are praising the move as a commitment to the environment. Boris Johnson‘s government is “firmly committed to tackling” plastic and its byproducts. Eustice said of the change, “The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations. We are already a world-leader in this global effort. Our five-pence charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95% in the main supermarkets, we have banned microbeads, and we are building plans for a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers.”

Before the pandemic and the announcement, the UK was using 1.8 billion cotton buds, five billion straws and 316 million plastic stirrers. While it is a step toward reducing plastic, environmental campaigners aren’t cheering too loudly yet.

John Read, founder of Clean Up Britain, called the government’s effort “piecemeal and symbolic” and said, “We need to change people’s behaviour in a sustainable and permanent way, we need to see a national behavioural change campaign and that’s what we haven’t got in this country at the moment. People have got to understand that when they throw away plastic straws, hamburger packets, crisp packets, it’s all their own personal pollution… so people understand that they’re doing the damage to the environment.”

Movement in the United States has been much slower, apart from companies like Johnson & Johnson taking steps to remove plastic from products. Unilever, producer of Q-tips, does not include plastic in its product. Read more recent news about plastic waste, including birds ingesting plastic wastesquirrels building nests with plastic, and the excess of plastic waste caused by the coronavirus.

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There are products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives including, making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, household cleaners, using mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads!

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