Defra’s decision to postpone the plastic straw ban has been described as “very disappointing” amid fears that the pandemic will threaten progress on recycling and waste.
On Wednesday (15th April) the government said it will delay by six months the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England – which was supposed to be implemented this month.
Defra said the delay was due to supply chain disruption to businesses such as pubs, restaurants and cafes.
Environmental Audit Committee chairman Philip Dunne expressed concern that the landfill created by these non-recyclable items are “jeopardising the environment and wildlife both on land and when they reach the sea.”
He said: “It is very disappointing that the government has delayed the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.”
“The UK is a world-leader in environmental protection. While it is completely understood that the response to coronavirus should dominate government resources currently, it is crucial that the pandemic does no threat progress being made with relatively straightforward steps to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. “
Defra released a statement on Thursday (16th April) denying that the ban had been delayed due to “lobbying from the plastics sector” and explained that minsters decided to delay the ban because of “the impact on businesses from the current coronavirus outbreak to avoid additional burdens for firms”.
Meanwhile, the government also faced criticism from environmental campaigners, which have long backed a ban.
The chief executive of plastic pollution campaigners City to Sea, Rebecca Burgess said: “We’re now looking to government to provide reassurance that this isn’t the start of a slippery slope of watering down and delaying legislation to tackle the plastics crisis. We’re particularly concerned as this follows on from government announcing the temporary removal of charges for plastic bags used in online grocery deliveries.
“While we’re all having to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape, any delays or changes to the commitment will come with a large environmental cost. We need reassurance that they understand the price they’re asking our natural environment to pay.”
In response, Defra reinforced the governments commitment to reducing avoidable plastics waste.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We remain absolutely committed to turning the tide on the widespread use of single-use plastics and the treat they post to our natural environment. This ban is yet another measure to clamp down on unnecessary plastic so we can better protect our precious wildlife and leave out environment in a better state for future generations.”
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and subsequent disruption to businesses, our ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds is being delayed until October. Read more here: https://t.co/Hq2uQnuxtp
— Defra UK (@DefraGovUK) April 16, 2020