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In an iconic move, the UK government issued the ban on plastic straws from 1st October 2020.
The plastic straws ban has been a welcome change and a model for many countries around the world. This ban seeks to address the rising issue of plastic pollution, threatening to damage the natural resources on Earth.
Many argue that banning plastic straws doesn’t come anywhere close to handling the plastic pollution that’s increasing at a rapid pace.
But when we look at the pollution caused by plastic straws, we can notice that it can make at least a small difference in the plastic waste polluting our land, water, aquatic life and wildlife.
In a report by the International Coastal Cleanup released in 2018, plastic straws were the seventh most common item collected during the cleanup. In fact, there were enough plastic straws to reach the height of over 10,000 palm trees. This was the cleanup conducted in that year in specific parts of the world.
Can we imagine the massive volume of plastic straws that are polluting the environment all over the world for many years together?
With such a huge volume of plastic straws avoided by the ban, it gives us the motivation to bring down the total generated plastic waste.
As people move towards more sustainable options, they may begin to reevaluate the use of plastics in their lives. When people understand the reasoning behind the plastic straws ban and take an active part in it, their outlook towards using plastic for other purposes can slowly change.
The plastic straws ban of England is a part of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan to eliminate the avoidable plastic waste. The 25 Year Environment Plan is an initiative to curb the use of single-use plastics. It also plans to enable better recycling programs across the country.
The legislation to ban the plastic straws was laid before the British Parliament in March 2019. The ban was supposed to take effect from April 2020. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ban began on 1st October 2020. The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) didn’t want the ban to trouble the businesses that were already struggling due to the coronavirus. And so, the ban was shifted to October 2020.
The ban not just includes single-use plastic straws but also stirrers and cotton buds. These items are constituting a significant portion of the plastic pollution in the UK. The government’s ban on plastic straws seems to be welcomed by a majority of people. This ban applies to all businesses that manufacture, distribute, or sell these single-use plastic items.
Since a few critics pointed out that the ban on plastic straws could affect those with disabilities, the DEFRA has exempted those who have medical needs and disabilities to continue using plastic straws. So, the restaurants, pubs and bars cannot hand out the straws or offer them on their own. However, when requested, they can provide plastic straws for those in need.
This ban strikes a balance between protecting the environment and accommodating the needs of people with medical conditions and disabilities.
Banning plastic straws isn’t the only solution for curbing plastic pollution. However, it’s all about the mentality such a ban will bring in the minds of the people.
As the experts say, banning plastic straws will bring ‘moral license’ among the public and the businesses about doing their part for the environment. Though the plastic straw ban wouldn’t directly impact the environment much, it’s the first step towards a plastic-free world.
While many are open to this change, one major challenge to move away from plastic is the cost of manufacturing biodegradable substitutes. The cost of the raw material for such substances is significantly higher. But it can be brought down by exploring new ways of bioprocessing and engineering. And this ban is a good start to motivate companies to develop cost-effective and eco-friendly plastic replacements.
As better alternatives for plastic items that aren’t harmful come along, the mindset of the people will also shift.
The most critical factor in enforcing the plastic straws ban is to ensure that this isn’t a single thing. The UK government has to ensure that this is the first step in completely eradicating single-use plastics.
The ban on the plastic straw ban is a great move by the UK government. It creates a sense of purpose among the public and businesses. By starting with a small problem, we can expect the government to take subsequent actions. This will help curb the use of plastic with the public’s support and fight against the crisis of plastic pollution.
About Plastic Collectors: Plastic Collectors is an initiative by a group of motivated people from all around the world to handle the rising issue of plastic waste. We aim to salvage our planet from plastic pollution and, at the same time, create employment opportunities for the poor. If you’re interested in working with us, get in touch with us.