Plastic drinking straws are set to be banned in England by the government as early as next year, after a long campaign to try and halt the pollution of the world’s rivers and oceans.
What the government is realising now, however, the hospitality industry has long known, with bars across the country phasing out single-use drinking straws for the past few years. At the beginning of 2018, Healthy Hospo founder Tim Etherington-Judge launched his No More Plastics Club to educate the trade on how to reduce its usage. Similarly, The Evening Standard announced its The Last Straw campaign in January to encourage London venues to eradicate straws from their bars.
The difficulty has been in finding replacements. Bio-degradable options often come with a caveat of only breaking down in certain conditions that landfill or incineration don’t offer; metal straws are disliked for the taste they impart on drinks and paper straws often disintegrate. But it looks like 2019 will be the year bars will be forced to find a solution or cut straws altogether.
Over at Trailer Happiness in West London, owner Sly Augustin ordered in multiple paper straw brands and put them to the test by soaking them in crushed ice drinks for an hour. The one that held its shape is now served with the bar's long drinks.
The official timeline puts the straws, along with other single-use plastic items, including cotton buds, under review later this year, with a ban on sales set for 2019. The announcement comes ahead of a meeting on Thursday with the Commonwealth heads of government, where Theresa May is hoping to bring other countries on board.
‘The Commonwealth is a unique organisation with a huge diversity of wildlife, and environments – so it is vital we act now,’ she said.
The ban is planned only for England, however, Scotland – like the hospitality industry – is a step ahead of the national government. It's had a consultation under way since January to ban the manufacture and sales of plastic-stemmed cotton buds with campaigners promising they will slash Scotland’s marine plastic pollution in half.
Some government minsters are calling for a more incremental ban as when the plastic bag levy was introduced. However May and Michael Gove, minister for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, are determined to take action.
‘It is only through government, business and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation,’ Gove said.