Environment Secretary Michael Gove could outlaw plastic drinking straws within the near future.
This action is in response to environmental concerns, with The Marine Conservation Society estimating the UK gets through an enormous 8.5 billion straws each year.
Plastic straws are among the top ten offending waste items found during beach clean-ups; having extremely harmful effects for wildlife who accidentally ingest them.
Plastic straws reportedly take more than two centuries to disintegrate, according to campaign group Refuse The Straw.
Well if it’s not enough that he’s messed up our education system, he now wants to mess up my Friday night G&Ts in spoons 🤷♀️
— Chloe Brown (@clbzyx) February 23, 2018
Gove spoke with The Telegraph about the environmental impact of plastic straws, brought into focus following the nationwide 5p plastic bag charge.
When asked whether he would consider banning straws after the UK leaves the European Union, Gove stated ‘Watch this space.’
Gove continued to discuss his opinion on how banning straws could prove easier after Brexit:
If it is bad, then banning it is a good thing. But we have to take a balanced approach towards the EU.
There are some good things about the EU but one of the things about being inside the EU is that there are some steps that we might to take environmentally but can’t yet.
If you don’t need it, don’t use it – it’s great to hear the Government is considering a ban on single-use plastic straws in bars, pubs & restaurants in the UK 🌍 #PromiseForThePlanet pic.twitter.com/rypv4NXS9a
— WWF UK (@wwf_uk) February 23, 2018
Gove, who has reportedly given up using plastic for Lent, has previously written for The Evening Standard on this subject, writing:
For most of us they’re just a convenience,
For wildlife they are killers. The plastic straws we use and throw away so carelessly are lethal.
They embed themselves in the noses of sea turtles, block the throats of dolphins and choke fish.
All this so that humans can empty their glasses more quickly.
— BBC (@BBC) February 18, 2018
In January 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May spoke of her desire to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK within a period of 25-years, announcing government funding for innovation in plastics.
May described plastic waste as being ‘one of the great environmental scourges of our time,’ noting, ‘In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.’
The problem of plastic pollution was brought home in a sobering way during David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series, which you can check out for yourself below:
According to the BBC, a government spokesperson has said:
We are committed through our 25-year environment plan to eliminating avoidable plastic altogether by the end of 2042 so we leave our planet in a better state than we found it.
We are exploring a range of options, and have already introduced a world-leading ban on microbeads, and set out plans to extend the 5p plastic bag charge, improve recycling rates and explore plastic-free aisles in supermarkets.
A number of food and drink chains – including JD Wetherspoon, Wagamama and Pizza Express – have already taken action on this issue.
Plastic straws at these restaurants are being phased out or available only available on request, in accordance with the Refuse the Straw campaign.
Many chains now use biodegradable alternatives, which are created from compostable ‘bio-plastics.’
Disappointing to see that @IKEAUK are still selling #plasticstraws in bulk, when there is so much evidence of how damaging they are, particularly to marine environments. This doesn’t stack up v well with their “env credentials” and will only drive demand! #plasticfree 🚫 pic.twitter.com/mULJw2wZzj
— Amy Ritchie (@aammyyr) February 18, 2018
Labour have stated this plastic straw ban is a ‘positive’ move. However, the opposition party have said the government has much to work towards in regards to improving environmental policies.