Gove stirs it up with surge against plastic

MICHAEL GOVE, the UK Government’s Environment Secretary, has launched a consultation on the Government’s plan to ban plastic items.

Straws, stirrers and cotton buds could be banished in a year because, he said, they can devastate the world’s oceans and wildlife.

The ban could be put in place between October next year and October 2020, according to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs.

The consultation will consider exemptions to ensure that people who need plastics to deal with medical conditions or accessibility issues are not affected.

Under Government plans, pharmacies could still sell plastic straws, and restaurants, pubs and bars could stock the items to be used, on request.

It is estimated that 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used each year in England.

Mr Gove said the ban would be a boost to help turn the tide on plastic pollution, adding: “Our precious oceans, and the wildlife within, need urgent protection from the devastation that throw-away plastic items can cause.

“In England, we are taking world-leading action with our ban on microbeads. And, thanks to the public’s support, we have taken over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p charge.

“I commend retailers, bars and restaurants that have already committed to removing plastic straws and stirrers. But we recognise that we need to do more.

“Today, we step up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”

Around 10% of cotton buds are flushed down toilets, often ending up in waterways and oceans, says the Government. And it is hoped that millions of pounds could be saved, annually, on clean-up efforts of used plastics, which can take years to break down.

Sam Chetan Welsh, Greenpeace UK’s political adviser, commended ministers for doing “the sensible thing”, but he urged big companies to do more by cutting down on plastic packaging.

“Our society’s addiction to throwaway plastic is fuelling a global, environmental crisis that must be tackled,” he said.

“Ministers are doing the sensible thing by looking to ban single-use, plastic items, that can be easily replaced with better alternatives, or that we can simply do without. But this should be just the start.

“If we are to protect our oceans from the scourge of plastic, the flow of waste needs to be cut off at the tap.”

He added: “That means the companies producing and selling all this packaging must take responsibility for it and cut down the amount of plastic ending up in our shopping baskets.”

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, welcomed the consultation, saying that many restaurants and hotels were already acting to cut down on plastics.

“We wholeheartedly welcome this consultation on an issue of vital importance, and one which UK Hospitality has already taken significant action,” she said.

“Since our ‘Unpack the Future of Hospitality’ summit in the spring, thousands of pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK have changed their straws and stirrers to biodegradables, or adopted policies that cut or eliminate their use in their venues.

“The Government is seeking views on how we can cut plastic waste, and we look forward to continued engagement to play a part in achieving that goal.”










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