In a sweeping movement to help reduce the amount of non-recyclable consumer waste, the U.K. government has announced plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs.
“Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world,” Prime Minister Theresa May announced in a statement on Wednesday, in which she called the U.K. government to be “a world leader on this issue.”
Downing Street also said in the statement that it would work with industry in developing alternatives and ensuring “there is sufficient time to adapt.”
The proposal would exempt plastic straws used for medical reasons.
The ban is a small step in an overall effort to reduce plastic pollution from finding its way into the Earth’s oceans. According to the announcement, 150 million tons of plastic find its way to the water each year. This trash is responsible for killing one million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals, which either eat the plastic or get tangled in it.
Who else is helping?
Earlier this month, McDonald’s announced it would make its U.K. stores more environmentally friendly. More than 1,300 locations across the country would test out paper straws instead of plastic ones. The fast-food giant is responsible for nearly one billion disposed straws annually worldwide.
Music festivals in the U.K. also aren’t waiting for the legislation to go through. Organizers at the Association of Independent Festivals already committed to banning plastic straws at events this year, and further committed to banning all single-use plastic at all events by 2021.
In the U.S., a number of major cities including New York, Chicago, Seattle, D.C., and San Fransisco have enacted plastic bag bans or fees for using them. Starting June 1, Malibu, California will prohibit restaurants and other food vendors from offering or selling plastic utensils, drink stirrers or straws.
Still, the toughest ban on plastics comes from Kenya. Producing, selling or even using plastic bags in the African country can put you at risk for up to four years in jail or $40,000 in fines.
Other counties that have partly banned or taxed plastic bags include China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.
The crackdown on straws and plastic bags came on the heels of the movement to ban plastic microbes from entering Earth’s waterways.