It’s very possible, in fact likely, that plastic straws will be banned in the UK in the very near future. In an April 19, 2018 London meeting with the Commonwealth Heads of Government, it was decided that single use plastic rubbish clearance items will be phased out, if they cannot be recycled or reused at neat a one hundred percent level.
At the top of this list were single use plastic straws, single use plastic stirrers (like those people use to stir sugar and cream into their coffee and tea), and cotton buds (also called cotton swabs or Q-tips). There is also a plan to put a mandatory deposit on all single use plastic bottles that will only be refunded when the empty plastic bottles are taken back to the store from where it was purchased or to a designated bottle return location (or reverse vending machine).
The reasons for this push to ban single use plastic rubbish clearance are simple. This plastic is destroying our environment and affecting the health of people! CNN reports that approximately one million birds die each year as a result of plastic in and near our oceans. About one hundred thousand marine mammals also suffer the same dire fate. Moreover, the problem is expected to get much worse in the next few decades without very serious and immediate wide spread action. It is predicted in fact that we’ll have more plastic in the ocean than fish by year 2050!
The UK government recently published an official report that found that more than seventy percent of all rubbish clearance in the oceans is in the form of single use plastics! The report also sounded alarm bells that the amount of plastic would actually triple between 2015 and 2025 without immediate intervention. These alarming stats are the impetus for Theresa May and other world leaders becoming so compelled to take immediate action.
The United Nations calls the plastic waste removal crisis in the ocean an “ocean Armageddon.” They have called on all members to work together to reduce plastic rubbish clearance on a global scale. However, certain countries, namely the United States and China, have thus far been resistant to adopt the specific United Nations’ recommendation.
The question now is whether or not other countries will follow the UK’s lead to ban plastic straws and phase out other single use plastic which cannot be recycled or reused in some way. While the UK is one of the most vocal countries in this effort, they are not the biggest producer of single use plastic. According to Time Magazine, the UK produces about twenty-three million single use plastic straws a year. However, the United States produces about five hundred million single use straws a year! That’s almost twenty-two times more!
Will the United States at least follow the UK’s ban on single use plastic straws? If the richest nation in the world isn’t showing concern enough to take action on a global problem that has been clearly demonstrated, developing countries may show less interest in reducing plastic rubbish clearance as their populations soar.
Hopefully, a UK ban on plastic straws will lead to bans in other countries that will put increasing pressure on any holdouts to do the same, including the United States and China. This may be spurred by chain restaurants, which have a presence in many different nations, being first forced to ban plastic straws in some countries and then deciding to go ahead for economical reasons to do the same across all their locations. We can only hope this is true.
Why so much focus on plastic straws? Why not focus more on other plastic rubbish clearance, like plastic bottles, that causes even greater environmental havoc?
Plastic straws are a good example of the proverbial “low hanging fruit.” The reasons are it is relatively easy for businesses and consumers to get alternatives to plastic straws. Hard cardboard straws are quickly biodegradable readily available already. The UK has vowed to give businesses enough time to make the transition without suffering a profit loss.
Furthermore, reusable stainless steel straws are an even better replacement for single use plastic straws. Consumers can carry these in their purse or backpack. Ecofriendly businesses could potentially offer a small discount to customers who bring their own reusable straw, in the same way that many businesses now offer a discount if a customer brings her own reusable shopping bag(s).
If your heart has been moved by any of the current educational campaigns to divert rubbish clearance from our landfills, we congratulate you! You are now part of the human race that will ultimately solve this problem. If you live in the UK, one action you can take immediately is to call Clearabee and set up a weekly collection of all your rubbish clearance. Unlike the council services, Clearance goes out of its way to divert all the rubbish they collect from the landfills. In fact, they now divert about ninety percent of the collected rubbish, reusing or recycling it instead!