As of April 2020, plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds (Q-tips) will officially be banned in the United Kingdom. On Wednesday, May 22, the U.K. government confirmed a ban on the plastic items following overwhelming public support: over 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. It’s estimated that the country currently uses 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic drink stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds annually.
Exemptions will be in place to allow for the use of the items where necessary: plastic-stemmed cotton buds will be available for medical and scientific purposes, registered pharmacies will be allowed to sell plastic straws online and in-store for those who medically need them, and restaurants, pubs, and catering establishments will only be allowed to hand out plastic straws upon request. The U.K. government will carry out a stocktake one year after the ban is put into effect to assess the impact of the measures and see if changes to the ban are necessary.