Change in UK law means that straws and other single use plastics to be banned from 2020

Columnist Kirsty-Jo Muddiman explores the new UK ban on plastic straws to reduce single use plastic waste.

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 7:45 am
Selection of straws.

Single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds will be banned from supply in the UK from April 2020 in a bid to reduce our single-use plastic waste.

The legislation gained overwhelming public support and the disabled community has welcomed the provision that bars and restaurants can offer plastic straws to those who have a medical need for them, and that plastic straws will be available to purchase from pharmacies.

Whilst some say the ban hasn’t gone far enough, with many campaigning to ban single-use plastic cups in addition, this legislation is at least a step in the right direction and perhaps would not have happened as quickly had we not experienced the “Attenborough Effect” bolstered by the “War on Plastic” TV program.

Environmentally protective legislation is needed quickly, many would argue, but we do need to make sure the legislation is robust.

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I do wonder how the plastic straw ban, in particular, is going to be policed.

Presumably, pubs, bars, and restaurants will still be able to buy plastic straws to cater for their disabled customers, but which employee is going to question a customer’s needs in terms of their disability?

I would think it inappropriate to ask a customer whether they qualified to have a plastic straw in any setting, never mind a public one. Not all disability is visible and disability assessment certainly doesn’t come under the job description of a bartender, in my opinion. Attempts by companies to remove plastic straws prior to the ban have been met with criticism.

McDonald's have introduced card straws which have been publicly slated by customers unhappy that their plastic counterparts have gone, and others have criticised the fact that they cannot be recycled.

McDonald's have defended their straws saying they are biodegradable and are recyclable if the facilities exist. Just last week, while eating out, I heard a small boy shout after his mother who was walking towards a member of staff, “and a plastic straw, not a paper one”.