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Plastic cotton buds, straws and coffee stirrers are banned in England from today

Plastic straws, cotton buds and coffee stirrers have been banned in England from today.

The ban was announced in 2018 and due to come into effect in April, but the Covid-19 pandemic pushed it back.

Now from today, (October 1), it is illegal for businesses to supply the plastic utensils to shoppers.

There are few exemptions to the ban, including those with disabilities or medical conditions who need them.

Scotland has already banned the products in October last year.

According to government figures, it's estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton bus and 316 million plastic stirrers are used in England every year.

Approximately 10 per cent of cotton buds are flushed down toilets, ending up in waterways and oceans.

The move follows the new rules introduced in 2016, forcing customers to pay a 5p charge for plastic bags, which later drastically reduced the number of bags used by shoppers.

Wales is consulting on its own ban on the plastic utensils, which are expected to come into force during the first half of 2021. However, the ban will also include plastic plates, cutlery, balloon sticks and polystyrene food and drinks containers.

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Many retailers have swapped plastic products with paper and more environmentally-friendly alternatives already, like McDonald's who ditched plastic straws in 2018.

The 5p bag charge is set to rise to 10p from April 2021 and extended to all retailers, from corner shops and newsagents to big supermarkets.

Cleaning, beauty and health products containing microbeads were also banned two years ago.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: "The ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds is just the next step in our battle against plastic pollution and our pledge to protect our ocean and the environment for future generations."

Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner Sion Elis Williams said: "Ministers must also do more to challenge our throwaway culture by forcing a shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives."

Tatiana Lujan, plastics lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth, said that banning the "useless" products was a "no-brainer", reports The Sun.

She added: "But these items form only a tiny fraction of single-use plastics, which litter our environment and release toxic substances and greenhouse gas emissions when incinerated – and even when they're made.

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