Government’s strategy to tackle single-use plastic

2 Oct 2020

The UK government has revealed a ground-breaking ban which will see the end of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds on the high street in England.

The move is a key step in the Government’s strategy to tackle single-use plastic, as shocking statistics highlight the amount of plastic being consumed by the British public.

From 1 October 2020, you must not supply or sell single-use plastic:

  • straws and cotton buds to end-users in England (you can continue to supply single-use plastic straws and cotton buds to other businesses)
  • drink stirrers to end-users and businesses in England

The ban applies to all businesses that supply these products, including manufacturers and retailers. 

If you bought them before 1 October 2020, you can continue to supply or sell leftover supplies of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers until 1 April 2021.

If you bought them after 1 October 2020, you must not supply:

  • plastic straws or cotton buds to end-users
  • drink stirrers to any customers

After 3 July 2021, you must not supply drinks products with single-use plastic straws attached to the packaging.

A single-use plastic:

  • straw is made wholly or partly from plastic and is not designed or intended to be reused
  • cotton bud is a rod made wholly or partly of plastic with cotton wrapped around one or both ends and is not designed or intended to be reused
  • drink stirrer is made partly or wholly of plastic and is designed and intended for stirring drinks

Alternatives to single-use plastic

You can still supply and sell:

  • single-use straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers made from other materials
  • reusable alternatives

Some paper straws contain adhesives containing plastics within the inner lining of the straws. These are an acceptable alternative to plastic drinking straws.

Exemptions to the ban on single-use plastic straws

There are some exemptions to the ban on supplying plastic straws. This is so that disabled people or those with accessibility needs can still use them.

Catering establishments exemption:

Catering establishments can supply single-use plastic straws with food and drink for immediate consumption, but must

  • keep straws where customers cannot see them or help themselves to them
  • only give straws to customers that request them
  • not offer them to customers either verbally or in writing.

A catering establishment is any of these businesses that supply food or drink ready for consumption without further preparation:

  • restaurant
  • canteen
  • club
  • public house
  • similar establishment including a vehicle or a fixed or mobile stall

Packaging exemption

You can supply single-use plastic straws that are used as packaging. For example, some medicines are dispensed through a straw.

Care homes, prisons, schools and early years providers exemption

You can supply single-use plastic straws in:

  • care homes
  • premises used for early years provision
  • schools
  • prisons or other places of detention

Where possible, these establishments should find alternatives to single-use plastic straws.

Getting inspected

Your local authority will inspect you to check you are following the law. Inspectors can:

  • visit your shop or store
  • make test purchases
  • speak to staff

www.gov.uk/guidance/straws-cotton-buds-and-drink-stirrers-ban-rules-for-businesses-in-england