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Government bans plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers

The Government has announced that it will ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds, straws and drinks stirrers from April 2020.

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 in England.

An estimated 10 per cent of cotton buds are flushed down toilets and can end up in waterways and oceans.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment. These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life.

"So today I am taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution, and ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations."

Thames Water sustainability director Richard Aylard said: “We very much welcome today’s announcement, particularly on plastic cotton buds which contribute to the 75,000 blockages we remove a year from our sewers.

"The plastic sticks don’t break up when flushed down the toilet so along with fat, wipes and other non-flushables they form fatbergs which can cause sewage flooding to homes, businesses and the environment.

"Those that don’t form blockages are difficult to be screened out of the sewage when it arrives at a treatment site so can cause further issues there. As the ban doesn’t come into force until next year, in the meantime it’s important products containing plastic are disposed of in the bin and never down the toilet. Our message is ‘Bin it – don’t block it’."

The ban will include exemptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability are able to continue to access plastic straws, while plastic-stemmed cotton buds can still be used for medical and scientific purposes where these are often the only practical option.

Author: Robin Hackett, editor, WWT
Topic: Policy & Regulation , Sewer Networks
Tags: government , pollution , plastics waste , Thames Water , sewers


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