Ecocleen has welcomed the recent announcement of a potential ban on plastic straws and cotton buds in England.
The ban could come into effect as soon as next year, as part of the government’s bid to cut plastic waste. The campaign has already achieved a ban on microbeads and a 5p charge on plastic bags at all major retailers. Other potential measures include a levy on disposable coffee cups, and a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles.
The £61.4m government initiative aims to reduce marine pollution, with a shocking 150m tonnes of plastic currently believed to be in our oceans. Prime Minister Theresa May has described plastic waste as “one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world”.
Cotton buds are one of the biggest causes of ocean pollution. Often flushed down the toilet by unsuspecting members of the public, many of them end up being eaten by birds and marine life, which can prove fatal. It’s thought over 100,000 sea mammal deaths are caused by plastic waste.
An estimated 8.5bn plastic straws are thrown away in the UK every year, although many positive steps are being taken by both the government and the public to combat this. 60 UK music festivals have announced a ban on plastic straws at their events this summer, and many bars and restaurants are now opting to get rid of plastic straws, either replacing them with environmentally friendly alternatives or foregoing straws altogether.
However, there remains a lot of work to be done. Greenpeace has recommended that other non-recyclable plastics also be banned, and urged retailers to phase out single-use plastics. Meanwhile, ministers say the public must be better informed on which household items can and cannot be recycled, as startling figures recently showed many of us are recycling the wrong items.
The plastic problem in figures
According to the BBC, as of 2015 6.3bn tonnes of plastic waste have been generated to date, of which just 9% has been recycled, while 79% has been accumulated in either landfills or the natural environment. If current trends continue it’s estimated 12m tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050.