Worcester MP Robin Walker has spoken out in support of the Government’s intention to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

The Prime Minister announced the move in a speech to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit on Friday, calling on all Commonwealth nations to join in the fight against plastic pollution.

Subject to the consultation, which the Environment Secretary will launch later this year, the Government will ban the sale of these items in England under plans to protect our rivers and seas and meet our 25 Year Environment Plan ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste. This forms part of the wider government waste strategy – including the government’s current call for evidence on how we can use the tax system to address single-use plastics waste.

In order to eliminate these items from use, the Government will work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt. It will also propose excluding plastic straws for medical reasons.

Single-use plastic items such as straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds have a significant impact on our environment, both on land and in our seas and rivers when they are either littered or discarded incorrectly after use – with a recent study showing 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year in the UK. 

The Government has already taken action on plastic microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products, with a ban on their manufacture in force since January and a ban on the sale of products containing microbeads coming into force in July. In addition, the Government’s 5p charge has already cut plastic bag use by 83 per cent, taking 9 billion bags out of circulation. Money raised from the charge – £95 million so far – has been donated to environmental, educational, and other good causes.

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.”

“The UK government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.”

Commenting on the proposed ban, Robin said:

“This is a welcome move by the Government, and one which I know will be welcomed by a great many of my constituents in Worcester who have contacted me to explain their concerns about the blight of plastics in our seas and rivers.”

“Tackling this issue effectively will of course require a global consensus, and so I was pleased to see the positive reception given to the Prime Minister’s call for action by Commonwealth leaders assembled in London last week. Our work with the British Overseas Territories already makes a sizeable contribution in this field, and with the support of the Commonwealth we will be well placed to do even more.“

“The incredible results seen since the introduction of the plastic bag charge – with 9billion fewer bags in circulation since 2015 – show that seemingly small initiatives can make an enormous difference in changing our habits, and the plastic straw ban will go a long way towards achieving our goal of being the first government to leave our environment in a better condition than that which we inherited.”


Notes to editors

For more information on the proposed plastics ban, please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-government-rallies-commonwealth-to-unite-on-marine-waste