Scotland is set to become the first UK nation to ban plastic straws, as part of plans to cut down on single-use plastics.
The move follows the announcement that the Scottish Government is outlawing the sale and manufacture of plastic cotton buds, one of the most prevalent waste items found on beaches.
Parts of Britain, including the remote Shetland Islands, have also set out their own plans to cut down on single-use plastics in an effort to combat pollution.
There has been growing concern among the public about the impact of plastic waste on marine life, particularly after the issue was highlighted by BBC series Blue Planet II.
The Independent has launched its Cut the Cup Waste campaign to address the problem of unrecyclable, plastic-lined coffee cups.
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The use of plastic straws was banned in the Scottish Parliament earlier this month, and Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham told the Sunday Mail the ban is set to be extended to the rest of the country.
She said she wanted to see cotton buds phased out by the end of this year, and a ban on plastic straws entering into law by the end of 2019.
“I would strongly encourage the big manufacturers of straws that the writing is on the wall and they need to be thinking about alternatives now,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “We are committed to ending Scotland’s throwaway culture and are considering how we can reduce single-use items like plastic straws.
“There are obviously a number of legislative, financial and accessibility issues to consider when it comes to banning plastic straws, however it is our intention that we will be in a position to confirm definitive plans over the coming months.”
The Scottish Government will appoint an expert panel to advise on methods to reduce single-use items, including the introduction of charges.
Following the introduction of a 5p charge in the UK, plastic bag use has dropped by 85 per cent.
The spokesperson added that when the expert panel is established, plastic straws will be “one of their first priorities”.
Ms Cunningham said there will need to be alternatives available to replace plastic straws where necessary, and noted the speed of the process would be accelerated if there were no plastic straw manufacturers in Scotland.
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“It’s about making sure plastic straws are off the shelves and out of the takeaways and diners – and what’s in their place is suitable and recyclable,” she said.
The move was welcomed by environmental groups and campaigners who have been calling for bans on straws and other plastic items.
Calum Duncan, head of conservation at the Marine Conservation Society, told the Sunday Mail: “We are delighted with the announcement. We hope other countries will now follow suit.”
Ms Cunningham said that while it was not as simple as producing “a long list” of plastic products to ban, she would like to expand restrictions to other forms of plastic that commonly pollute the environment.
“I would hope to have, by the end of this parliament, more than just plastic cotton buds and straws done,” she said.
“It’s a continuing process.”Reuse content