A ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds has been announced by the Government and is due to come into force in April 2020.
This follows a Government consultation which found overwhelming support for a ban.
More than 80% of respondents backed a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, 90% a ban on drinks stirrers and 89% a ban on cotton buds.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment.
“These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life.”
Surfers Against Sewage chief executive officer Hugo Tagholm welcomed the move, describing these items as “single-use plastic menaces” and added: “It also helps further drive plastic-free options and alternatives for the public so they can truly make more sustainable choices in their daily lives.”
It is estimated that 95% of straws in circulation are still made from plastic.
But some groups think that Gove has not gone far enough. Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) was disappointed that all single-use items were not banned – whether they are made from plastics or not.
CPRE litter campaigner Maddy Haughton-Boakes said: “While it is fantastic news that the Government has taken such decisive action over plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, we are deeply disappointed that Michael Gove has not taken this opportunity to ban these unnecessary items altogether, whatever the material.
“It is simply not good enough to switch to so-called alternatives when single-use items should be phased out.
“Without an outright ban, manufacturers will continue to produce them in other ‘less harmful’ materials, while our countryside and environment continue to face the devastating consequences of the vast amounts of waste they create.”
As part of the ban, however, exemptions have been made on medical grounds for plastic straws so that people with disabilities or those with special health requirements will still be able to access them. Eateries will be able to provide plastic straws on request but will not be able to hand them out automatically or have them on display. Pharmacies will also still be able to sell plastic straws over the counter and online.
Muscular Dystrophy UK trailblazers manager Lauren West explained that plastic straws were sometimes the only type that works for disabled people because of their flexibility and use in hot and cold drinks.
She said: “If disabled people cannot access plastic straws when out, it could put their health at risk as they may not be able to drink and could become dehydrated.”