Opinion: We should welcome the 2020 plastic straw ban


Government consultation on banning plastic straws by 2020 to reduce pollution should ultimately be welcomed. The announcement adds to the growing number of innovations, interventions and legislation initiatives being put in place to support and encourage organisations to improve their environmental performance, including recycling.

The recent press focus on plastic waste has increased scrutiny towards large consumer brands, and the pressure is on to meet both government and customer demands. It’s no longer acceptable to overlook the issue; customers want to know what the companies they’re purchasing from are doing to reduce their impact on the environment, especially when it comes to reducing waste.

Whilst retailers and manufacturers are a key part of the solution – effective legislation is crucial when it comes to driving change. A strong example of how successful legislation can be is the 5p charge on single-use plastic bags, which resulted in an 86% drop in their use within major supermarkets.

Many well-known brands are already tackling single-use plastics, including straws. Green King, for example, worked with SWRnewstar to introduce the industry’s first closed-loop compostable straw solution. Additionally, many fast food chains and restaurants including McDonald’s, PizzaExpress and Wagamama have made commitments to replace plastic straws with biodegradable ones.

Open and honest conversations about the life cycle of our products are an important step. Large organisations are strongly positioned to implement change in both materials and behaviour. As well as within their own business they have the opportunity to influence suppliers, including manufacturers and consumers.

The government’s acknowledgement of the environmental effects of single-use plastics should be commended but it will take commitment and action from consumers, manufacturers, waste management companies, local authorities and the government to find innovative and effective solutions to the current plastic crisis.

Ongoing incremental changes will result in a significant overall impact.