A total ban on plastic cotton buds, straws and drink stirrers will be announced by Theresa May today.
Declaring war on our throwaway culture, the Prime Minister will unveil measures to protect the oceans.
‘We are clogging up one of the earth’s greatest natural resources with harmful plastic and – for the sake of this and future generations – we must take action now,’ she writes in today’s Daily Mail.
Prime Minister Theresa May will today announce a ban on straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers made from plastic in a bid to cut the amount of waste being dumped in the ocean
The PM wants to call an end to Britain’s wasteful ‘throwaway society’ which loves plastic
The treasury is looking at plans to impose a levy on single-use plastic items such as bottles
She also praises this newspaper’s Great Plastic Pick Up campaign, which has seen 4,000 readers sign up for 200 community litter clearing events next month.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been pushing for plastic straws to be outlawed. But today’s announcement goes much further by extending the ban to cotton buds and stirrers.
Ministers believe this would be more effective than trying to change consumer behaviour through taxation.
The Treasury will still press on with plans for levies on other single-use plastic items, such as cups, bottles and packaging.
Sources said there was no reason why business could not switch to biodegradable alternatives, such as paper straws, wooden drink stirrers and paper-stemmed buds.
The Government said it would consult with industry and give firms ‘sufficient time to adapt’ before imposing the ban, which is unlikely to come into force until next year.
Mrs May says 12million tons of plastic are being dumped in the oceans each year – contributing to changes that are ‘fundamentally altering key marine ecosystems’.
Mr Gove said: ‘Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now. We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on straws, stirrers and cotton buds to help protect our marine life.
‘We’ve already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use.
‘However it’s only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation.
‘We all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic.’
The plastic ban will apply only in England initially. But ministers hope to extend it across the country by working with counterparts in Wales and Scotland, which has already announced plans for a cotton bud ban.
The ban could have a significant impact on marine waste.
A recent study found that 8.5billion plastic straws are thrown away each year in the UK.
A separate survey revealed that an average of 27 cotton buds are washed up for every 100 metres of beach in this country.
The BBC’s landmark Blue Planet 2 series featured the heartbreaking story of an albatross chick killed by a plastic toothpick dumped in the ocean.
Today’s announcement comes as Mrs May opens the Commonwealth heads of government summit in London, where tackling pollution is a top agenda item. She described the summit of 53 nations as a ‘unique opportunity’ to drive action globally.
Seven countries have already joined the UK in forming a Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, including Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Ghana, Kenya, Vanuatu and Fiji. The new organisation is committed to preventing waste and cleaning up plastic pollution in the seas.
The UK announced more than £60million in funding this week to help Commonwealth countries tackle the plastic menace.
Government sources said the stunning success of the 5p charge on plastic bags showed there was support among both the public and business for action on the issue, provided the Government gave a lead.
Deliveroo says use of plastic cutlery on takeaway food orders had dropped by 91 per cent in a month after it offered an opt-in system.
Last night ministers were accused of a ‘lack of urgency’ over the issue after Mr Gove told MPs a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles might not be introduced until 2020.
Last month he announced plans for a scheme under which consumers pay a deposit on drinks bottles and cans which is repaid when they hand them in for recycling.
The move aims to boost recycling rates and cut litter, and comes amid increasing concern over the issue of single-use plastic, much of which ends up as waste.
But yesterday he told MPs that legislation was unlikely to come forward until next year and come into force only the following year.
Mary Creagh, who chairs the cross-party environmental audit committee, said: ‘It is disappointing that having announced the deposit return scheme last year, the Government will not be bringing this vital part of tackling plastic waste until 2020 at the earliest.’
THERESA MAY: We must take action now
Today, as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018 in London formally begins, I will be urging our fellow Commonwealth countries to join in a campaign which I know the Daily Mail and its readers care passionately about: the fight against marine plastics.
I will also be leading by example with the announcement that the Government will eliminate the use of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
We are clogging up one of the earth’s greatest natural resource with harmful plastic and – for the sake of this and future generations – we must take action now.
Theresa May said the oceans support hundreds of millions of people worldwide
The PM wants to outlaw the use of single-use plastic items such as drinking straws
Our oceans are essential to life on our planet, and support hundreds of millions of people worldwide in their livelihoods – and here in the UK, as a great island nation, we are rightly proud of our coastal landscape and spectacular beaches.
But pollution, climate change and over-fishing are fundamentally altering key marine ecosystems. Plastic pollution is perhaps the most visible of these threats. Latest estimates suggest that 12million tonnes of plastic are entering the oceans every year, equivalent to a rubbish truck full of plastic being dumped into the sea every 40 seconds.
Cotton buds will also feature on the PM’s new list of banned single-use plastic items
Plastic drink stirrers will also be banned under the ambitious new plans
I am clear we must act now to preserve the health of our oceans, and I have been hugely heartened by the passion and energy shown by The Daily Mail’s campaign and the public at large in this fight. That’s why this week, as leaders from across the Commonwealth come together to discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time, we must make the most of this unique opportunity to galvanise international action and make a real difference.
I will be encouraging countries across the Commonwealth to sign up to the newly formed Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA), as seven have already done.
I hope that together we will use the opportunity this week presents for us to go further.
It is the ambition of the Government I lead to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, much of which is used only momentarily but can take hundreds of years to break down.
We have introduced a world-leading ban on microbeads and taken nine billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p carrier bag charge.
And today, I can announce that we will go further – we will ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. We are prepared to introduce a ban on the sale of these items, subject to consultation later this year.
A recent survey found 27 cotton buds are washed up on every 100 metres of beach in this country and another study found an estimated 8.5billion plastic straws are thrown away each year in the UK.
I expect everyone on the Daily Mail’s Great Plastic Pick Up next month will find these items littering our parks, beaches and public areas.
As well as this, and in recognition of the support the UK public has shown on the issue, the UK Government will match pound-for-pound public donations to help tackle plastic pollution in developing countries that can end up in the world’s oceans and rivers.
Improving the health our oceans is one of the greatest environmental challenges we face. And today as leaders from across the Commonwealth gather together, collectively representing 2.4billion people, some 60 per cent of whom are under 30, it is vital that we hand on a world that is sustainable and cleaner for the next generation.
Sickening images of nature’s victims
A British couple ditched their transatlantic sailing race to rescue a turtle tangled up in a plastic fishing net in the ocean.
Ex-police detective Michelle Howell, 58, and husband Richard spotted the struggling loggerhead turtle and hauled it aboard.
They freed the endangered turtle then released it into the Atlantic unharmed. Mrs Howell, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, said: ‘As we neared the net, the turtle then attempted to swim away from us but couldn’t as it was so tied up and obviously tired and very weary.
Ex-police detective Michelle Howell, 58, and husband Richard spotted the struggling loggerhead turtle and hauled it aboard
Also at risk from plastic are swans, such as this magnificent bird in Copenhagen
This swan nest in COpenhagen has been filled with plastic food and drink packaging
‘It was desperately trying to swim away but couldn’t because of the weight of the net it was trapped in.
‘We hauled it aboard and cut it free from the net and by that point it had stopped struggling, almost as if it knew we were trying to help it.
‘Once we had cut it free and released it back into the ocean we were all so jubilant, tears of joy were shed amongst us at what we had achieved. The pollution in our oceans has got to stop, as a sailor I have come across so much unnecessary pollution.’
Loggerhead turtles, which measure up to 3.5ft, are among the many species suffering from the blight of plastic in our oceans and rivers.
Also at risk are swans, with heartbreaking images emerging of birds that had built their nests from plastic waste. The pictures, taken in Copenhagen, showed the nest – containing several eggs – filled with food packaging.
Inspired? Here’s how to do your bit
The Mail is stepping up its war on plastic with The Great Plastic Pick Up – a weekend helping communities, schools, families and individuals come together to clear plastic litter from our beaches, beauty spots and streets, in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy.
It’s so simple to sign up and you can win amazing prizes that may make all the difference to your community. Here’s everything you need to know:
The Great Plastic Pick Up will take place between May 11-13 across Britain
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
The Great Plastic Pick Up will run from the beginning of Friday, May 11, to the end of Sunday, May 13. Communities will get together to pick up rubbish – with a specific mission to remove the plastic that poisons our streets, parks and public areas.
WIN A SPRING CLEAN FOR YOUR AREA
THINK your area could do with a spring clean? A Daily Mail team will scour photos sent in by The Great Plastic Pick Up groups and select three winners of this prize worth £10,000. If you win we’ll send professional cleaners to your area – and you can tell them what to clean.
HOW DO I SIGN UP?
Go to greatplasticpickup.org and give your details. Anyone can get involved (though children should be accompanied by a responsible adult).
The first 3,000 sign-ups will be sent 30 recycled bags for picking up plastic – and we have 450,000 bags to distribute to councils across the country, so you can still collect your Great Plastic Pick Up bags from there.
HOW DO I ORGANISE A PICK UP?
Sign up on greatplasticpickup.org and work out where and when you want to hold your pick up.
You’ll be asked if your pick up is just for family, friends or neighbours, or whether you are happy for others to join in. A public pick up will appear as a pin on an interactive map on the home page. People can click on your pin and sign up to join it.
HOW CAN I KEEP INFORMED?
Follow the #GreatPlasticPickup hashtag on Twitter and keep an eye on developments in the Daily Mail.
WHAT WILL WE DO ON THE DAY?
Gather at the set time, check in with the organiser and get picking! Grab any litter you see and simply put it in the correct bag:
- Plastic bottles and lids in the blue bags (with caps and labels).
- Metal drink cans in the red bags.
- Everything else into white sacks.
WHAT CAN’T I PICK UP?
Never touch syringes, broken glass or large fly-tipped items such as furniture – instead, tell your council. Do not pick near busy roads.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTERWARDS?
You can proudly post your pictures on Twitter with the #GreatPlasticPickup hashtag, while group organisers can go back to greatplasticpickup.org to log their bags and upload photos so they can be entered into the competition.
WHERE WILL ALL THE BAGS END UP?
- Plastic bottles will be recycled and made into new plastic items.
- Metal cans will be recycled and made into new cans.
- Rubbish will be incinerated in a facility that generates electricity.