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Britain pledges to ban plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton swabs under environmental initiative

Great Britain plans to outlaw drinking straws, Q-Tips, and stirrers under new environmental initiative. (Mark Large - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In an effort to eradicate avoidable plastic waste by 2042, Great Britain has created a "national plan of action" announced by Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday.

Plastic straws, cotton swabs like Q-Tips, and drink stirrers are all to be banned by 2042  under the new initiative. But deeming the products as contraband is expected to come sooner rather than later; Scotland announced its plan to ban all plastic straws by the end of next year.

Prime Minister May explained the reasoning behind the plan, saying that "Plastic waste is one of the greatest environment challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda."

Her statement was ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on Thursday, encompassing 53 nations — most of which are former British colonies. She added: "We are rallying Commonwealth countries to join the fight against marine plastic."

While a timeline for the prohibition of such products is expected in late 2018, May said that the government "will work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt. It will also propose excluding plastic straws for medical reasons."

Meanwhile, Scotland has been more aggressive in their approach. Scottish Environmental Secretary Roseanna Cunningham told the Sunday Mail, "I would strongly encourage the big manufacturers of straws that the writing is on the wall and they need to be thinking about alternatives now."

As part of Britain's announcement by May, stats provided showed that 150 million tons of plastic pollution was in the planet's waters, causing the deaths of over 100,000 sea mammals and one million birds.

Stories of whales dying from the ingestion of plastic have emerged in the news of late, drawing alarm to the amount of trash polluting the world's oceans.

In the US, similar initiatives have been proposed in California, including one which would threaten restaurant servers with a fine of up to $1,000 for giving a straw to a customer unless requested. Starting June 1, a ban is set to punish food vendors and restaurants from offering or selling plastic utensils, stirrers, or straws in the city of Malibu, California.

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