The British PM is Right, It’s Time To Ban Cotton Buds and Plastic Straws

PM Theresa May has outlined proposals that would ban single use straws and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in the UK, a move that she hopes will be echoed by the rest of the Commonwealth.

Estimates suggest that the UK uses around 44 billion plastic stirrers and 42 billion plastic straws every year. As with all plastics waste, most of that isn’t easily biodegradable and so, ultimately, ends up in landfills or in our oceans.

Plastic-stemmed cotton buds are also problematic. They are often flushed down lavatories and make their way to our oceans, where they may interfere with marine life. If they are binned, most recycling plants cannot process them because they are a mixed material product.

Speaking to the 53 members of the Commonwealth at a summit this past week in London, UK, Prime Minister Theresa May said that it is time the UK changed this fact, and she urged other Commonwealth leaders to feel supported in doing the same.

A government statement says:

“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.” [said the Prime Minister]. “The UK government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

Alongside our domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics, with £61.4million funding for global research and to improve waste management in developing countries.

This echoes plans by Environment Secretary Michael Gove who in February discussed the need to ban single use plastic straws and stirrers in order to cut down on the UK’s plastics waste.

What may be particularly pleasing for environmental activists who have campaigned on this issue is Mr Gove’s apparent commitment to the government taking action, rather than letting industries regulate themselves.

We know that a great many industries have already voluntarily taken steps to curb plastics waste, but campaigners say that legislation is needed to ensure all businesses take this step.

We’ve already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use,” The Environment Secretary Gove said in a press release, ”however it’s only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation – we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic.”

And this will be key. Voluntary action is useful in some sectors and over-regulating businesses can be problematic. Yet, creating frameworks from which businesses can work makes action more consistent, measurable and meaningful.

Given that there is currently around 150 million tonnes of plastic waste in our oceans, and reducing it is one of the most pressing challenges we face today, measuring that impact is critical.

But not just for the UK. The Commonwealth is a 53-strong group of nations, many of which were once under British rule. That sad legacy of colonialism certainly should not be forgotten, but the UK’s status as a Commonwealth leader has precipitated a number of good changes in recent years.

The Prime Minister hopes that by taking a tough stance on plastics waste, other Commonwealth countries will do likewise.

The UK must not just lecture though, but must actively help poorer and lower income nations to manifest this change by providing funds and infrastructure development that can allow them to side-step the ease of plastics.

For example, it’s one thing for the UK to say no to things like plastic bottles. But bottled water can be a vital lifeline for nations whose water supply is not consistent. This is a stark example, but it illustrates how important considering each nation’s circumstances is when we talk about reducing plastics waste. We must provide allowances and, critically, alternatives.

Nevertheless, this announcement by Theresa May is an important step. We must now hold the PM and her government accountable to decisive action within the next few months.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Marie W
Marie W9 months ago

Thanks for posting.

Claire Jeffrey
Claire Jeffreyabout a year ago


Inez w
Inez wabout a year ago

She 'cares' about plastic pollution, doesn't give a single poop about any of the poorer folks in the United Kingdom, nor disabled people who have had their benefits stopped in large numbers.
Now deporting folk INVITED (They are Commonwealth Citizens) to the UK in the late 40's as the Home Office decided to destroy all their records.
Paulette Wilson, 61, who came to Britain from Jamaica aged 10 in the late 1960s, said she received a letter saying she was in the country illegally.
Sonia Williams, who came to the UK from Barbados in 1975, aged 13, said she had her driving licence withdrawn and lost her job when she was told she did not have indefinite leave to remain.

And there are others. So, So many others...

So yeah, great, plastics. But where humans are concerned, this woman is an elitist devil

christine s
christine sabout a year ago

It's a good start ---is'nt it ????.

Chad Anderson
Chad Aabout a year ago

Thank you!

Luna S
Past Member about a year ago

she is wrong A) plastic biodegrades after a few months and the cotton dissolves under water i use the card board ones but ran out and grabbed plastic ones because they were a dollar- 2 dollars cheaper but i either throw them away or i burn them at the end of the month with my plastic pile its only like 10 a month or three months that i burn them so plastic is fine i dont support the countries idea

Margie FOURIEabout a year ago

Quite agree with her

Winn A
Winn Aabout a year ago


Winn A
Winn Aabout a year ago


Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

Thanks for posting.