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.
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.