1 October 2020 by James Langley

Plastic straw ban comes into force

The ban on supplying plastic straws and stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds has come into force today (1 October).

Initially due by the end of April, the ban was delayed for six months by the coronavirus pandemic (see letsrecycle.com story).

The ban on plastic straws was delayed by six months by the coronavirus pandemic

Exemptions are in place to protect disabled people and those with medical conditions who require plastic straws. Those who need to will be able to request a plastic straw when visiting a pub or restaurant and purchase them from pharmacies.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Single-use plastics cause real devastation to the environment and this government is firmly committed to tackling this issue head on.

“We are already a world-leader in this global effort. Our 5p charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95% in the main supermarkets, we have banned microbeads, and we are building plans for a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers.

“The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations.”

Defra estimates 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used in England every year.


The ban is to be introduced just more than a month after the government announced the 5p plastic bag charge was to be doubled and extended to all retailers from April 2021 (see letsrecycle.com story).

“It’s fantastic news that the ban on plastic cotton bud sticks, stirrers and straws is now in place”

Dr Laura Foster, Marine Conservation Society

The government has also committed to launching a £500 million Blue Planet Fund to protect the ocean from plastic pollution, warming sea temperatures and overfishing. It is estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean globally every year, including plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

Dr Laura Foster, head of clean seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “It’s fantastic news that the ban on plastic cotton bud sticks, stirrers and straws is now in place. The results of our annual Great British Beach Clean have shown a decrease in cotton bud sticks littering British beaches.

“In 2017 we found an average of 31 cotton bud sticks per 100 metres of beach, and in 2019 we found just eight on beaches in England. This reflects that many companies have already made the switch away from plastic, in cotton buds and other items, something we need to see more companies doing.

“Only with ambitious policy and forward-thinking brands and companies, can we truly stop the plastic tide.”


Plans to ban on the distribution or sale of plastic straws, plastic drinks stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England were first announced by Theresa May, then prime minister, in April 2018.

Following a public consultation in autumn 2018 which received “huge support”, the government confirmed in May 2019 that it would implement a ban with exceptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability are able to access plastic straws (see letsrecycle.com story).


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