Lancashire Trading Standards is reminding retailers that the sale of straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds made from plastic is banned from today (1 October 2020) in an effort to tackle single-use pollution.
The ban is just one step towards trying to tackle the problem of plastic pollution, which has seen over 150 million tonnes of plastic flooding into the world’s oceans and creating huge floating garbage patches. A 2018 report estimated that plastic was due to treble in the world’s oceans by 2025 – marine plastic already kills many millions of seabirds and mammals every year, and the problem is getting worse daily.
The government estimates that around 4.7 billion plastic straws, 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds and 316 million plastic stirrers are used in England each year. Although these single use items are now largely banned, there is an exemption for stock already in store before 1 October 2020, which can be sold through for the next six months, however no new stock can be purchased. The ban applies to single use items made wholly or partly from plastic, and sold to a consumer. Reusable alternatives or straws, stirrers and buds made from other materials are widely available and are allowed.
There are also exemptions for straws on drinks cartons, those used in care homes, prisons, schools or nurseries, and to assist anyone with disabilities or medical needs.
Lancashire Trading Standards Service will be enforcing the ban in Lancashire, and have the power to inspect, test purchase, request records and take samples. Breaches can be a criminal offence, although a civil fine or a stop notice can also be imposed.
County Councillor Albert Atkinson, cabinet member with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “Straws may seem unimportant at first glance, but the government estimates that the UK uses 4.7 billion of them a year, amounting to 3,500 tonnes of plastic waste.
“The average person uses 130 of these items, which is a much higher usage per head than any other European country. They are rarely recycled and take 200 years to decompose, becoming microplastics in our oceans, and adding to the roadside litter which costs local authorities a fortune to clear up.”