As part of the 25 Year Environment Plan, the United Kingdom is planning on banning the sale of single-use plastics, such as plastic straws and cotton swabs. This plan set out by the UK government aims to reduce plastic waste, which is one of the greatest environmental challenges that the UK faces.
The UK consumes approximately 8.5 billion plastic straws per year. This equates to an average citizen using 130 straws per year, and compared to other European countries, this figure is remarkably high.
When you are ordering a drink, you might not realise the bigger picture that exists behind the straw. There are currently 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic in the world. Seven percent of this consists of plastic straws by the piece. The UK contributes 4.93 million tonnes of plastic waste each year of which 3,570 tonnes of straws.
While the majority of the straws are made of polypropylene, which is a recyclable material, most straws do not even enter the recycling process. Without this recycling process they take up to 200 years to decompose.
To give a better understanding of these current events, GreenMatch created an infographic.
Two major contributors of plastic straws are McDonald’s and Starbucks.
McDonald’s distributes 1.8 million straws per day to the citizens of the UK. In order to tackle the plastic straw issue, McDonald’s is experimenting with paper straws.
Starbucks plans on eliminating straws and replacing them with plastic lids called sippy cups. Unfortunately, one of these lids are made of even more polypropylene than a straw. The reason for this decision is that straws do not always reach the recycling process due to their small size and lightweight. However, Starbucks believes that plastic lids will have less trouble reaching the recycling process.
While plastic has a place in our society, and can be a very useful and sustainable method of preserving our planet, for example through insulating your home with uPVC windows, we still have a long way to go in reducing our single-use plastic consumption.
Even though the banning of the plastic straws is a step in the right direction, there is still more to do.