Ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds begins

Press release
Government urged to include legally binding plastic reduction targets in Environment Bill
  Published:  01 Oct 2020    |      1 minute read

A ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England, which is due to come into force today [Thursday 1 October], has been welcomed by Friends of the Earth. 

But the environmental campaign group warns far tougher measures are needed to stem the flow of plastic pollution pouring into our environment and is urging the government to include legally binding plastic reduction targets in its Environment Bill.  

Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner, Siôn Elis Williams, said: 

“The ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds is welcome news, but these items are just a fraction of the plastic rubbish that pours into our environment and threatens our wildlife.  

“The government must get tougher on plastic with short and longer term targets that are legally binding in its Environment Bill, currently passing through Parliament. What is then needed is a strong framework to check that standards have been met, in doing these things there is a hope of stemming the tide of plastic pollution. 

“Ministers must also do more to challenge our throwaway culture by forcing a shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives.

“It’s time to put the planet first and end wasteful over-consumption."

According to the UK government, in England each year it is estimated that we use:  

  • 4.7 billion plastic straws 
  • 316 million plastic stirrers  
  • 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds
  • Further, an estimated 10% of cotton buds are flushed down toilets and can end up in waterways and oceans and threaten precious marine wildlife


  1. The ban was due to be introduced earlier this year, but the government postponed it due to the pandemic.  Straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers ban: rules for businesses in England DEFRA
  2. The ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds follows huge public demand for action on plastic pollution. See Government consultation: Government figures on annual use of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds