- in Environment
A ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds has come into force in England.
The measure, originally due to start in April, makes it illegal for businesses to sell or supply the items.
People in England use an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds each year.
Environmental campaigners welcomed the ban but called for a crackdown on further single-use items.
An exemption will allow hospitals, bars and restaurants to provide plastic straws to people with disabilities or medical conditions that require them.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the government was “firmly committed” to tackling environmental “devastation” caused by single-use plastics.
Campaigners welcomed the move but said the items formed only a “fraction” of the plastic waste littering the environment.
Sion Elis Williams, of Friends of the Earth, said ministers “must also do more to challenge our throwaway culture by forcing a shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives”.
Tatiana Lujan, of environmental law charity ClientEarth said straws, cotton buds and stirrers were “some of the most pointless plastics out there” and the ban on them was “a no-brainer”.
But they remained “a tiny fraction” of single-use plastics, she said, adding that countries such as Ireland and France had “shown far more ambition” with targets on reusable packaging and deposit return schemes.
Mr Eustice said the government was “building plans” for a 5p deposit scheme to encourage recycling of single-use drinks containers.
The Welsh government has said it is also considering a similar ban on plastics.
A number of national restaurant chains ditched plastic straws before the ban was announced.