Legislation to ban the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds has been laid in Parliament today (March 3), in a bid to reduce the impact of single-use plastic waste on the environment.

Following a public consultation in Autumn 2018 which received “huge support”, the government confirmed in May 2019 that it would implement a ban with exceptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability are able to access plastic straws (see letsrecycle.com story).

The ban is due to come into force in April 2020.

Commenting on the draft legislation, environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “We must turn the tide on the widespread use of single-use plastics and the threat they pose to our natural environments. Our ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds is yet another measure to clamp down on unnecessary plastic so we can better protect our precious wildlife and leave our environment in a better state for future generations.

“This ban strikes the right balance, ensuring that we accommodate those with medical needs or disabilities while also protecting the environment.”

In England, it is estimated that 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used every year.


The Statutory Instrument will be laid in Parliament, entitled: Environmental Protection (Plastic Straws, Cotton buds and Stirrers) (England) Regulations 2020. It will be debated and approved by Parliament in the usual way.

Registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws over the counter or online. Catering establishments such as restaurants, pubs and bars will not be able to display plastic straws, automatically hand them out, or offer them – however, these establishments will be able to provide them on request.

Ms Pow added that ban was one of many measures aimed at tackling plastic waste.

She said: “The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just one of a range of measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, underpinned by the government’s 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy.

“Other key government actions include a world-leading ban on microbeads, introducing a 5p charge on plastic bags in major supermarkets which has reduced usage by 90%, and consulting on introducing a deposit return scheme to drive-up the recycling of drinks containers.”

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