Last reviewed 1 October 2020

New Regulations to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England comes into force on 1 October 2020.

The ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England was expected in April but was put on hold because of the impact on businesses from the coronavirus outbreak. Scotland was the first country in the UK to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds in 2019.

Under the new Regulations, businesses must not supply or sell drink stirrers to end-users or businesses in England, or single-use straws and cotton buds to end-users in England, although businesses can continue to supply single-use plastic straws and cotton buds to other businesses. These rules apply to all businesses that supply these products, including manufacturers and retailers.

Businesses that bought supplies before 1 October 2020 can continue to supply or sell leftover supplies of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers until 1 April 2021. Sales of single-use plastic straws attached to drinks packaging must also cease after 3 July 2021.

Exemptions to the rules include catering establishments, such as restaurants, pubs, clubs and canteens, but only if requested by customers.

Other exemptions include registered pharmacies and those that are used in medical devices or for medical purposes, such as preventative medicine, diagnosis, research and medical care. Businesses can also still supply single-use plastic straws that are used as packaging, for example, to dispense some medicines. Single-use cotton buds can also still be supplied to forensic service providers.

Local authorities are the enforcement body who have the power to visit premises, make test purchases and inspect records. Business that continue to sell or supply single-use items, contrary to the restrictions, can be subject to penalties including a fine.

Full guidance on the ban of single-use plastic here.