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Ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England

Environment, Legislation Update

The ban on supplying or selling plastic straws and stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds came into force in England on Thursday 1st October, marking a major step in the Government’s fight against single-use plastic waste to protect the environment.

plastic straws

Why ban single use plastics?

Pollution of the environment with plastics is a global environmental problem, with plastic debris contaminating all types of habitats. Plastic pollution can be harmful to wildlife, human health and to the economy in England and beyond. In addition, around 70 per cent of all the litter in the oceans is made of plastic.

In England, an estimated that 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used every year. Following a public consultation in Autumn 2018 which received widespread support, the government confirmed in May 2019 that it would implement a ban which was due to come into force in April 2020 but was delayed due to Covid-19. The legislation has now come into force since Thursday 1st October and is entitled “The Environmental Protection (Plastic Straws, Cotton Buds and Stirrers) (England) Regulations 2020”.


What does this mean for my company?

Your company must not supply or sell single-use plastic:

  • straws and cotton buds to end-users
  • drink stirrers to end-users and businesses

The ban applies to all companies that supply these products, including manufacturers and retailers. If your company bought them before 1 October 2020, you can continue to supply or sell leftover supplies of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers until 1 April 2021.

If you do not stop selling or supplying these items, your company could be fined by the local authority who will also set the fine. All companies should thus transition to single-use straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers made from other materials and reusable alternatives.


Are there any exemptions?

There are some companies and institutions that are exempt from the ban on supplying plastic straws. This is primarily so that disabled people or those with accessibility needs can still use them. Some of those exempted are:

  • Registered pharmacies
  • Catering establishments
  • Medical devices and purposes
  • Care homes, prisons, schools and early years providers

To find out more, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has published guidance for companies on how to navigate the new legislation



England , Environment , Environmental Law UK , Plastic Pollution , Plastic straws , plastics , stirrers and cotton buds , UK
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