The ban on plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-tipped cotton buds finally came into force on October 1st, just one month after it was confirmed that the single-use plastic bag charge would rise to 10p, extended to all retailers from April 2021… a serious step in the right direction towards helping the UK builds back greener from the coronavirus crisis.
It’s thought that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic makes its way into our oceans around the world each and every year, with marine wildlife injured or killed as a result of all the plastic waste.
The government has also made a commitment to launch a £500 million Blue Planet Fund, intended to protect the ocean from plastic pollution, as well as overfishing and warming sea temperatures.
And other action that has already been taken on plastics includes a ban on microbeads, as well as a consultation on the introduction of a deposit return scheme to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers.
George Eustice, environment secretary, said: “Single-use plastics cause real devastation to the environment and this government is firmly committed to tackling this issue head on.
“We are already a world-leader in this global effort. Our 5p charge on single-use plastic bags has successfully cut sales by 95 percent in the main supermarkets, we have banned microbeads, and we are building plans for a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers.
“The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations.”
Plastics have become an integral part of the modern economy because they’re so functional and they don’t cost much to produce – and it seems that plastic production is showing no signs of slowing down, despite the undeniable impact they have on the environment, even finding their way into the human food chain.
Experts now say that the average person eats a credit card-sized amount of plastic each week, indicative of just how big the problem has become.
A recent World Economic Forum report noted that the use of plastic has increased twenty-fold in the last 50 years, up from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014, and it is expected to double again in the next 20 years.
Packaging represents 26 percent of the total volume of plastics used, delivering direct economic benefits and contributing to increased levels of resource productivity (such as by reducing food waste by extending the shelf life of produce), but the drawbacks of the plastics economy are becoming increasingly apparent as time goes on.
According to the study, only 14 percent of plastic packaging is currently collected for recycling, at least eight million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean every year and plastic make up around six per cent of global oil consumption – equivalent to that of the global aviation sector.
If the growth in plastics usage continues as projected, the sector will make up 20 percent of total oil consumption and 15 percent of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050 – a budget that has to be adhered to if we are to achieve the goal of remaining below a two degree C increase in global warming.
Want to start reducing your impact on the planet? Start small with blue metal straws and take it from there.