Before these products were banned, it was estimated that straws, stirrers and cotton buds collectively contributed to around 5.7% of marine litter.
After the ban, the Great British Beach Clean 2021 reported cotton bud sticks had moved out of the UK’s top 10 most common beach litter items.
‘Plastic is a scourge which blights our streets and beautiful countryside and I am determined that we shift away from a single-use culture.
‘By introducing a ban later this year we are doubling down on our commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. We will also be pressing ahead with our ambitious plans for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and consistent recycling collections in England.’
Future measures to tackle litter
The government is also considering further measures around other commonly littered and problematic plastic items, including wet wipes, tobacco filters and sachets, following the call for evidence on this issue.
Future steps that could be explored include banning plastic in these items, and mandatory labelling on packaging to help consumers dispose of these items correctly.
A new research project will also look into the impact of wet wipes on blockages in the sewage system, and will inform any future policy actions.
The ban will not apply to plates, trays and bowls that are used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items, as these will be included in government plans for an Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme, which will incentivise producers to use packaging that can be recycled and meet higher recycling targets.
‘We are in full support of this announcement by Defra, which marks important progress in the wholesale removal of problematic and unnecessary plastics that can end up as plastic pollution.
‘WRAP is working with UK businesses to meet ambitious targets in this important area, and our latest results show an 84% reduction in problematic and unnecessary single use plastics by our UK Plastics Pact members since 2018.
‘We’re delighted to see these efforts being backed up by regulation, which will accelerate efforts to keep plastic out of the environment.’
Interim CEO of WRAP
A timeline of action on plastics
These plans build on previous efforts to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.
One of the world’s toughest bans on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products was announced in 2018.
2020 saw restrictions on the supply of single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds.
The Plastic Packaging Tax in April 2022 – introduced a tax of £200 per tonne on plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK, that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic.
Following the success of the 5p single-use carrier bag charge, in May 2021 the minimum charge was increased to 10p and extended to all retailers, taking billions of bags out of circulation.
Through the Environment Act, the government is bringing in further measures to tackle plastic pollution and litter.
This includes a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers to recycle billions more plastic bottles and stop them being landfilled, incinerated or littered via a small deposit on drinks products to incentivise people to recycle, and plans for Consistent Recycling Collections for every household and business in England.
Plastic pollution is a global issue; the UK government is supporting the United Nations Environment Assembly resolution that kickstarted negotiations for a legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution.