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Plastic straws may be banned completely by the government within the next year under new plans to cut ocean pollution.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has launched a consultation to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds, which can devastate the world's oceans and the wildlife within.
This ban could come into play between October 2019 and October 2020, according to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The consultation will apply to England only, and it will consider exemptions to ensure that some people, who need plastics to deal with medical conditions or accessibility issues, will still have access to the products where necessary.
Only pharmacies will be able to sell plastic straws, with pubs and bars being able to stock them to hand out on request under these new government plans.
Figures suggest 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used every single year in England alone.
The Environment Secretary said this ban will help 'turn the tide' on the plastic pollution plaguing our oceans and wildlife - 10 per cent of cotton buds are flushed down the toilet ending up in waterways and the sea.
He said: "Our precious oceans and the wildlife within need urgent protection from the devastation throw-away plastic items can cause.
"In England we are taking world-leading action with our ban on microbeads, and thanks to the public's support have taken over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p charge.
"I commend retailers, bars and restaurants that have already committed to removing plastic straws and stirrers. But we recognise we need to do more.
"Today we step-up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it."
This ban would also help save millions of pounds on the annual clean-up efforts to rid of plastics that end up in the oceans and take years to break down fully.
Greenpeace has praised the government's efforts to drastically cut down on single use plastic, although urged companies to cut down packaging further.
Greenpeace UK's political adviser, Sam Chetan Welsh, said: "Our society's addiction to throwaway plastic is fuelling a global environmental crisis that must be tackled.
"Ministers are doing the sensible thing by looking to ban single-use plastic items that can be easily replaced with better alternatives or that we can simply do without. But this should be just the start.
"If we are to protect our oceans from the scourge of plastic, the flow of waste needs to be cut off at the tap. And that means the companies producing and selling all this packaging must take responsibility for it and cut down the amount of plastic ending up in our shopping baskets."
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