Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland should follow lead of England in banning plastic straws: MLA

By Adrian Rutherford

Plastic straws should be banned in Northern Ireland because of the environmental damage they cause, an MLA has said.

It comes as the Prime Minister unveiled plans to stop the sale of straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds in England.

Theresa May said plastic waste was "one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world" and the UK was taking a lead in tackling the problem.

A consultation on banning the disposable plastic products will launch later this year in an effort to cut the amount of waste that ends up in rivers and oceans.

Mrs May urged Commonwealth leaders gathered in London to follow the UK's example in tackling the problem.

Sinn Fein MLA Cathal Boylan said we should follow that lead, adding: "Plastic is a pollutant. It ends up in the ocean, entangling and endangering aquatic life.

"It finds its way into our food chain and water supply, threatening human health.

"And when it breaks down it releases toxins which contribute to global warming.

"One practical step we can take is to reduce the use of plastic straws.

"A straw may only be used for 20 minutes but it will last as waste for over 200 years."

Around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year, potentially contributing to the over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the oceans.

The environmental catastrophe - highlighted by the BBC's Blue Planet II series - sees one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

Subject to the consultation, which Environment Secretary Michael Gove will launch later this year, the Government is prepared to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England.

Officials will work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt, and will also propose excluding plastic straws used for medical reasons.

A recent survey found the majority of litter found on Northern Ireland's beaches was plastic.

Last year an average of 437 items of rubbish were found per 100m of beach here.

Some 82% of this was made of plastic, according to the 2017 Marine Litter Report, published by green charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.

Belfast Telegraph

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