The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has put forward the suggestion that plastic straws could be banned inside Britain.
The Marine Conservation Society estimates that the UK uses 8.5 billion straws each year. Straws are also amongst the top 10 items which are found in beach clean-ups. According to the campaign group, Refuse The Straw, plastic straws break down time is over 200 years. Theresa May spoke in January, saying she wants to eliminate all avoidable plastic within 25 years.
These questions have been raised thanks to the David Attenborough affect. His recent documentary Blue Planet II highlighted the damage caused by plastic in the sea. This caused outrage and has sped up the talking and acknowledgement of the UK’s plastic movement.
The impact on brands and retailers could be significant and a number of leading companies have started to back the motion, with the likes of JD Wetherspoon, Wagamama and Pizza Express announcing that plastic straws could be phased out or only available on request. A list of some of the companies signing up can be found here.
The latest company to follow this motion is McDonalds. Chief executive Paul Pomroy revealed on Sky News that the fast food giant will be phasing out the straws inside of the UK. Although these straws are already recyclable; Paul has commented saying that the move has been a request from customers. Many of whom feel like they don’t require a straw in the first place. Customers will now have to ask for a straw from behind the counter.
What are the repercussions of banning plastic straws?
One issue that has been raised from banning plastic straws completely has been expressed form a disability group. The Scottish based group, One in Five, feels that organisations are rushing to respond to “understandable environmental concerns” without having “fully considered the needs of some disabled people”. Expressing their concerns due to paper straws not being able to be used for hot drinks, whilst metal straws could be dangerous for those with Parkinson’s.
The general feeling about this issue is that it’s a good start. The questions that need to be asked are finally being asked, with action starting to take place. The big question is will this make a big enough impact or do moves like this need to be done more frequently in order for the impact to be felt. Measures need to be in place to make sure there isn’t a backlash from people reacting to the problems we have. It’s a good start, but we need to do more.