Defra has delayed by six months the introduction of a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds due to the “huge challenges posed to businesses and local authorities by COVID-19″.
Initially due to come into force at the end of this month, the ban was introduced following a public consultation in Autumn 2018 which received “huge support”.
The government confirmed in May 2019 that it would implement the ban with exceptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability are able to access plastic straws (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, pushing it back until October 2020, a Defra spokesperson said the government had to make the decision as “supply chain disruption due to the Covid-19 outbreak may make sourcing alternatives to single-use plastics challenging”.
The postponement of this legislation is thought to be the first by Defra in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Defra says there will be minimal changes to the legislation once it is withdrawn and re-laid, adding that the scope and exemptions will remain the same.
The dates in a transitional provision that allows retailers to continue supplying existing stock will be edited to reflect the later entry into force. This will then apply to stock obtained before the legislation comes into force in October 2020, rather than only to stock obtained before 30th April 2020.
“Supply chain disruption due to the Covid-19 outbreak may make sourcing alternatives to single-use plastics challenging”
Delaying the plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers ban was described as a “temporary measure”, and the spokesperson reiterated that the government remains committed to turning the tide on the widespread use of single-use plastics and the threat they pose to our natural environments.
The postponement of the ban by Defra applies only to England.
In England, it is estimated that 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used every year.
Once the ban is introduced, registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws over the counter or online.
Catering establishments such as restaurants, pubs and bars will not be able to display plastic straws, automatically hand them out, or offer them – however, these establishments will be able to provide them on request.