Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
London, United Kingdom (4E) – The United Kingdom will likely ban the sale and use of plastic straws and plastic-stemmed cotton buds as part of the government’s bid to slash the country’s enormous quantities of plastic waste.
Prime Minister Theresa May said plastic waste was “one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world.” She urged leaders at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that ended April 20 to follow the UK’s lead in tackling this growing worldwide problem. Government data shows that some 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away in the UK every year.
May claimed the UK was a “world leader” in the fight against plastic waste. She emphasized the country’s ban on plastic bags; the ban on microbeads and the announcement of a consultation on introducing a deposit return scheme for plastic drinks bottles.
“Alongside our domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics,” she said. “The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines.
“Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.”
More than 60 UK music festivals, including Bestival in Dorset and Boomtown in Hampshire, have said they will ban plastic straws at their events this summer.
Bestival’s co-founder Rob Da Bank said they were “leading the global charge against unnecessary plastic”, as the group of festivals also pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2021.
“It’s a worldwide emergency – that’s why we’re choosing to act. It’s also why we’re working with other Commonwealth countries,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove about the ban on plastic straws. Gove also said a number of retailers, bars and restaurants are already reducing plastic use, with the plastic bag ban set to be extended from major retailers to all retailers.
Scotland’s Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham announced earlier this year a plan to ban plastic straws, following a similar move aimed at banning the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth both welcomed the announcement as a “step forward” but both also warned more action would be needed. Greenpeace said other non-recyclable “problem plastics” should also be banned at the earliest opportunity, and retailers must phase out single-use plastics in their own products.
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