Plastic straws, Q-tips, and other single-use plastics are set to be banned in the UK as early as next year. The announcement has been made in the wake of more awareness of how our overuse of plastics is polluting the marine environment, killing birds and mammals and even finding its way onto our plates after being eaten by fish.
Plastic is flowing into the oceans at a rate of around 8 million tonnes (8.8 million tons) every single year, choking everything from whales and dolphins to plankton. The move was timed to coincide with the meeting of Commonwealth heads of state that is currently happening in the UK, with Prime Minister Theresa May hoping that it will encourage these nations to similarly address the global issue.
In the UK alone over 8 billion plastic straws are thrown away every single year, while Q-tips flushed down the toilet are one of the most significant sources of marine pollution, and end up being eaten by mammals and birds.
“Alongside our domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics,” Prime Minister Theresa May said. “The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines.”
“Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.”
The UK has already brought into force a tax on single-use plastic bags, of which the dramatic impact is already being seen. This has been followed by a ban on the production of microbeads, with a ban on their sale coming into force later this year. A plastic bottle return scheme is also expected to be set up. All the evidence so far is showing that these forms of direct action by the government really are working.
Use of plastic bags crashed by 90 percent following the enforcement of a 5p (7¢) charge for them, meaning that an astonishing 9 billion fewer bags are in distribution. This has already been reflected in the marine environment as a recent study found that the number of plastic bags spotted on the seafloor around the country has fallen by an incredible 30 percent.
“It is only through government, business and the public working together and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation,” the UK’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, according to The Guardian.
The next step is for the government to begin a consultation, which is expected to start in 2018, with a potential ban on single-use plastics coming into force as early as next year.