Starting October 1, it’s now illegal for businesses to supply customers with plastic straws and stirrers, or to sell plastic-stemmed cotton buds, with exceptions for disabled people and those with certain medical conditions. The law, which was passed by parliament in 2018, was supposed to be introduced in April, but was delayed due to the Covid pandemic and the resulting strain on supply chains.

In a statement, Environment Secretary George Eustice asserted that the government is firmly committed to tackling the issue of single-use plastics.

Pressure groups have been less than enamored by the new legalization, claiming the government should be doing more to ban plastic usage and change customer behavior. Tatiana Lujan, of environmental law firm ClientEarth, said, “Other countries, like Ireland and France, have shown far more ambition than the UK, with targets on reusable packaging and deposit return schemes.”

John Read, founder of Clean Up Britain, stated, “We need to change people’s behaviour in a sustainable and permanent way. We need to see a national behavioural change campaign, and that’s what we haven’t got in this country at the moment.”

In September, the civil-disobedience group Extinction Rebellion staged a 10-day protest in London, Cardiff, and Manchester. According to the Met Police, more than 600 people were arrested in London during the protests.

The government estimates that people in England use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds every year, many of which end up in the ocean.