Plastic Straws: The Latest Plastic Disaster

April 11, 2018

When David Attenborough exposed the issue of huge amounts of plastic in our oceans being consumed by marine wildlife in Blue Planet II, British TV viewers became irate and ready to take action. Whilst many of us already knew about the issue, Attenborough did a great job in creating national awareness.


This awareness has evolved into actual results, some of which we’d like to share with you in this article.


Michael Gove, Environment Secretary

Banning plastic straws cannot happen overnight, but it certainly can happen – is the gist of the message from Michael Gove. When asked if he would seek to have plastic straws banned, he replied ‘Watch this space’. This encouraging sentiment addresses a plastic waste stream that has risen considerably over the last decade, with the UK Marine Conservation Society estimating that we use 8.5 billion straws per year as a nation.


Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, has stated that she wants to set the motion for a chain of events that would result in all avoidable plastic being banned by 2042. Already we have seen the 5p single-use plastic bag charge and a ban on microbeads come into effect, so it looks likely that plastic straws will be next to face the cut.


Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans also stated that ‘EU legislation on single-use plastics [is] coming before the summer’.


Kids campaign to ban plastics

A group of nine and ten-year-olds from Oxley Park Academy in Milton Keynes have also joined the charge to ban single-use plastics, launching an online petition to support their campaign. As of writing this article, 8,397 people have signed up… make that 8,398!


The target is to reach 10,000 signatures, so that the issue can be debated in Parliament, although they’ve already had a strong local effect, having convinced a local pub to ban straws. The class will have the opportunity to present their case to Michael Gove if and when they are successful.


‘The most shocking thing about plastic pollution is that it is a problem, created by adults, that will affect our children so much more than it affects us,’ the school added in a statement.


Queen, Marriott, Wetherspoons, Wagamama, Pizza Express…

The list goes on, but early adopters of the plastic straw ban concept are already popping up.


The Queen banned plastic straws and bottles from all of her estates, giving a royally good push to the campaign. “Across the organisation, the royal household is committed to reducing its environmental impact,” a spokesman for Buckingham Palace said.


Back in February 2018, Marriott Hotels announced they would ban plastic straws from more than 60 hotels, bars and restaurants. In September 2017, Wetherspoons, the UK’s fourth largest pub chain (926 pubs), announced they would stop automatically adding plastic straws to drinks, and would transition into paper straws.


Wagamama, the popular Asian restaurant chain, announced that they would use April 22, Earth Day, as the perfect opportunity to start their journey without plastic straws. After a five-year-old girl wrote them an impassioned plea in the form of a letter, Pizza Express have also pledged to avoid single-use plastic straws.


Scotland 2019

Plastic straws were banned from Scottish Parliament in February 2018, but that’s just the beginning of things to come, according to Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham. She told the Sunday Mail that the ban is planned to be blanketed across Scotland in late 2019.


A fellow Scottish Government official said “We are committed to ending Scotland’s throwaway culture and are considering how we can reduce single-use items like plastic straws. Their first step is to appoint an expert panel whose job it is to advise on sustainable methods for reducing single-use plastic waste. There have been calls for various bans and charges as a starting measure.


‘Final Straw’ petition

Cornwall environmental campaign group ‘Final Straw’ recently launched a successful petition which exceeded 10,000 signatures very quickly, with the idea being that charges are introduced to customers for straws. Their campaign manifesto stated “Almost every piece of plastic ever produced still exists today. Most single-use plastic straws are discarded, often winding up in landfill, or contributing to the 8 million tons of plastic entering the sea every year.”


In a perfect summary, and what will serve as a wonderful conclusion to this article, Final Straw stated:


“They are a clear example of a completely unnecessary single-use plastic that is used for an average of just 20 minutes then discarded. Every straw on the planet right now will outlive everyone reading these words.”


“Some problems seem too big to tackle. This problem isn’t. We can do it if we all work together!”


We couldn’t agree more!