Plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds will be banned in England from next year to tackle pollution and protect the environment.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed a ban on the supply of the items from April 2020 after a consultation revealed “overwhelming” public support for the move.

More than 80% of respondents back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, according to the consultation, while 90% support a ban on drinks stirrers, and 89% on cotton buds.

It is estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used each year in England.

“It’s vital that we take action to reduce the scourge of single use plastics and today we’re putting forward the most comprehensive ban possible on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds,” Mr Gove said.

“As a result we will make sure that these items, which are often lethal for marine wildlife, are effectively banned. Of course there will be some exceptions, and those are for strict medical reasons only. And this ban will ensure that we continue to lead the way in making sure that we reduce plastic in our seas and that we deal with this particular scourge, this pollution that causes so much damage.”

Those who need to use plastic straws for medical reasons or a disability will still be able to buy them from registered pharmacies or request them in restaurants, pubs and bars. Exemptions will also allow for the use of plastic-stemmed cotton buds for medical and scientific purposes.

But food and drink outlets will not be able to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out.

Around 10% of cotton buds are flushed down toilets, often ending up in waterways and oceans, according to the Government. It is hoped millions of pounds could be saved annually on clean-up efforts of used plastics.

The announcement follows the Government’s ban on microbeads and the 5p charge on single-use plastic bags, which has seen distribution by major supermarkets drop by 86%.

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