The government has formally announced a consultation on proposals to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds as part of its crackdown on avoidable plastic waste.

The ban, which was first mooted by the prime minister in April, would come into force at some point between October 2019 and October 2020.

It is estimated that annually the UK uses 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England. An estimated 10% of cotton buds are flushed down toilets and can end up in waterways and oceans.

Environment secretary, Michael Gove, who officially launched the consultation, 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 million 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.”

The government is also set to announce proposals for a Deposit Return Scheme in England later this year.