Britain will ban sale of plastic straws

Britain plans to ban the sale of plastic straws and other single-use plastic products and is pressing Commonwealth allies to also take action to tackle marine waste.

'National plan of action' aims to eradicate avoidable plastic waste by 2042

A woman drinks a McDonalds refreshment with a straw in Loughborough, England. Britain plans to ban the sale of plastic straws and other single use plastic products. (Darren Staples/Reuters)

Britain plans to ban the sale of plastic straws and other single-use plastic products and is pressing Commonwealth allies to also take action to tackle marine waste, the office of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May said.

It said drink stirrers and cotton swabs would also be banned under the plans. Scotland has already said it will ban the sale of plastic stemmed buds by the end of next year.

It's estimated that 8.5 billion straws are disposed of in the United Kingdom every year. 

'The Commonwealth Canopy has emphasized our inter-dependence while the Blue Charter promises to do the same in protecting our shared ocean resources,' Queen Elizabeth said in her opening remarks at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting Thursday. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via Reuters)

May has pledged to eradicate avoidable plastic waste by 2042 as part of a "national plan of action".

"Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting," May said in a statement ahead of a Commonwealth summit on Thursday.

Leaders from the Commonwealth — a network of 53 countries, mostly former British colonies — are meeting in London this week, where they are expected to adopt a "Blue Charter" on protecting the marine environment.

Britain also plans to ban cotton swabs. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Queen Elizabeth gave the charter a plug in her opening remarks Thursday.

"The Commonwealth Canopy has emphasized our inter-dependence while the Blue Charter promises to do the same in protecting our shared ocean resources," she said.

May is looking to deepen ties to the Commonwealth as Britain seeks to boost trade and carve out a new role in the world ahead of the country's departure from the European Union in March next year.

Tackling plastic waste worldwide

Britain will commit 61.4 million pounds ($110 million Cdn) at the summit to develop new ways of tackling plastic waste and help Commonwealth countries limit how much plastic ends up in the ocean.

"We are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastic," May said.
 
"Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it."

It's estimated that 8.5 billion straws are disposed of in the United Kingdom every year. (Darren Staples/Reuters)

 
The statement said environment minister Michael Gove would launch a consultation later this year into the plan to ban the plastic items. It gave no details who the consultation would be with.

On Thursday, Gove called the impact of plastic on seas and oceans a "worldwide emergency."

With files from CBC News