Britain is looking at outlawing plastic straws in a bid to tackle pollution in the world’s oceans, the Environment Secretary has said.
Michael Gove said the Government wanted to do “everything we can” to restrict their use, saying: “We’re exploring at the moment if we can ban them.”
He added that such a move could prove to be easier once Britain has left the European Union.
Mr Gove said: “There is some concern that EU laws mean that we can’t ban straws at the moment, but I’m doing everything I can to ensure that we eliminate this scourge and I hope to make an announcement shortly.”
According to the Marine Conservation Society, an estimated 8.5 billion straws are used in Britain every year, with plastic straws one of the most common items found during beach clean-ups.
The comments from the Environment Secretary come after it was revealed the number of straws bought by Parliament had doubled in the last three years.
Mr Gove is one of a number of Conservative MPs who have pledged to cut down on their use of plastic during Lent.
He has also recently been pictured holding a disposable coffee cup in a bid to burnish his – and by extension the Tories’ – environmental credentials.
Writing in the Evening Standard recently, Mr Gove highlighted how an “overwhelming majority” of plastic straws “end up in landfill or clogging up our rivers and oceans.”
“As a symbol of society’s damaging addiction to single-use plastics and our throwaway culture, straws are hard to beat. If they did not exist, there would be scant reason to invent them,” he said.
Campaigners say single-use straws take more than 200 years to break down.
Some high-profile companies have started to phase them out, with the likes of JD Wetherspoon, Wagamama, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express and Waitrose either taking steps to stop using them or offering them on request only.
Prime Minister Theresa May pledged last month to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years, an action plan which included encouraging supermarkets to bring in plastic-free aisles.
The Government has already taken action to ban the use of plastic microbeads to reduce plastic pollution getting into the world’s oceans.
:: Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.skyoceanrescue.com