World, Europe

UK urges Commonwealth to follow war on plastic

British government announces ban on plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds

UK urges Commonwealth to follow war on plastic

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal


The U.K. has urged 53 Commonwealth states to join the fight against the use of plastic as it announced a ban on the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds on Thursday.

The announcement came during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in London.

“Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said.

The proposed ban will be effective when the “Environment Secretary will launch later this year, the Government is prepared to ban the sale of these items in England under plans to protect our rivers and seas and meet our 25 Year Environment Plan ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste,” a government statement said.

Single-use plastic items such as straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds “have a significant impact on our environment, both on land and in our seas and rivers when they are either littered or discarded incorrectly after use -- with a recent study showing 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year in the U.K.,” the statement added.

May said the U.K. government was a “world leader” on this issue.

The U.K. has banned the use of microbeads -- tiny pieces of plastics found in such products as facial scrub or toothpaste -- earlier in 2018.

A five-pence (seven-cent) plastic bag charge in supermarkets and shops, introduced in 2015, has reduced the distribution of plastic bags in the U.K. by 9 billion, according to the government.

The British government last month pledged to introduce a deposit return scheme for single-use containers such as bottles and cans. A levy on single-use coffee cups is also in the works.

The plastic straws thrown away each year contribute to at least 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans and “one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste”, said the statement.

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