UK could ban single-use plastics as early as next year

cotton buds
CC BY 2.0 Nic McPhee

I had to do a double take when I saw the headline over at The Guardian:

Single-use plastics could be banned in England next year.

Digging a little deeper, however, it appears 'single-use' is a fairly specific term, and doesn't appear to include things like plastic water bottles. Nevertheless, reports that plastic-stemmed cotton buds, straws and drink stirrers could all be banned from sale as early as next year is welcome news indeed, coming as it does on the heels of other measures like efforts to start a plastic bottle deposit return scheme, and the launch of a £60m (US$86m) fund to fight plastics pollution.

Now, let's not get too carried away just yet. The announcement is somewhat vague—promising a consultation later this year 2018, followed by a possible ban as early as next year— and the UK's Conservative government hasn't always made good on its grand environmental promises. Still, this is one more data point suggesting that Britain is getting increasingly serious in tackling its plastic pollution problem, and appears to be pushing other countries to step up to the plate too.

Encouragingly, British businesses and institutions appear to be getting out ahead of the conversation too. Supermarket Waitrose just promised to eliminate to-go coffee cups, the BBC is getting rid of single-use plastics, and the Queen is breaking up with straws too.

Let's hope this really does happen. And that it serves as an example for other countries to follow.

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