UK environment secretary hints at ban on plastic straws

Plastic straws could be banned in the UK after Brexit, environment secretary, Michael Gove said last night.

According to experts, straws take up to 500 years to decompose and the Scottish government plans to ban them by the end of 2019.

Meanwhile, official figures revealed purchase of straws by the British parliament had doubled in the last three years.

According to data from the House of Commons Commission, the number of straws bought had gone up from 6,000 in 2014-15 to 12,250 in 2016-17.

Scottish National Party MP David Linden termed the increase as "pretty alarming" after the information was revealed via a written parliamentary question.

Glasgow East MP, Linden asked for information regarding the number of single-use plastic straws dispensed by catering outlets on the parliamentary estate in each of the last five years, from Lib Dem former minister Tom Brake, representing the House of Commons Commission.

Brake replied,"The exact number of single-use plastic straws dispensed by catering outlets on the parliamentary estate in each of the last five years is unknown.

"However the number of straws purchased by the House for this purpose was: 2012-13 = 14,000; 2013-14 = 16,250; 2014-15 = 6,000; 2015-16 = 9,000; 2016-17 = 12,250."

According to estimates of the Marine Conservation Society, the UK uses 8.5 billion straws a year, and plastic straws are one of the top 10 items found in beach clean-ups.

When asked whether he would clamp a ban on plastic straws after the UK left the EU, Michael Gove told a podcast interview with the Daily Telegraph, ''Watch this space.''

He added, while a balanced approach would be needed: ''If it is bad, then banning it is a good thing.''

Gove wrote in The London Evening Standard last month: ''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.''