The government plans to ban the sale of plastic straws and drink stirrers as part of its crackdown on avoidable plastic waste.

The ban on straws and stirrers will be subject to a consultation, set to be launched by the environment secretary later this year.

The proposed ban, which also includes plastic stemmed cotton buds, forms part of the government’s wider waste strategy, including its current call for evidence on how the tax system can be used to address single use plastics waste.

The government said it would work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure that there was sufficient time to adapt.

A recent study revealed that 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away in the UK each year, having a significant impact on the environment, the government said.

The announcement came as Prime Minister Theresa May urged all Commonwealth countries to sign-up to the newly-formed Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance and ban microbeads, cut down on single use plastic bags and take other steps to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.

“Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting,” May said.

“The UK government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.”

Environment secretary Michael Gove added: “We’ve already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use, however it’s only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation – we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic.” 

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