• Eamonn Watson


Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Hospitality businesses need to be aware that from today it became illegal to supply single use plastics like straws and stirrers to end users in England.

It is estimated we use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England every year, many of which find their way into our ocean.

The ban applies to all businesses that supply these products, including manufacturers and retailers.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes have been dealing with a lot lately and may not be aware of the threat of sanctions. If you do not stop selling or supplying these items, you could be fined.

If you bought them before 1 October 2020, you can continue to supply or sell leftover supplies of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers until 1 April 2021.

If you bought them after 1 October 2020, you must not supply:

  • plastic straws or cotton buds to end-users

  • drink stirrers to any customers

After 3 July 2021, you must not supply drinks products with single-use plastic straws attached to the packaging.

A single-use plastic:

  • straw is made wholly or partly from plastic and is not designed or intended to be reused

  • cotton bud is a rod made wholly or partly of plastic with cotton wrapped around one or both ends and is not designed or intended to be reused

  • drink stirrer is made partly or wholly of plastic and is designed and intended for stirring drinks

Catering establishments exemption

Catering establishments can supply single-use plastic straws with food and drink for immediate consumption, but must:

  • keep straws where customers cannot see them or help themselves to them

  • only give straws to customers that request them

  • not offer them to customers either verbally or in writing

A catering establishment is any of these businesses that supply food or drink ready for consumption without further preparation:

  • restaurant

  • canteen

  • club

  • public house

  • similar establishment including a vehicle or a fixed or mobile stall


Getting inspected

Your local authority will inspect you to check you are following the law. Inspectors can:

  • visit your shop or store

  • make test purchases

  • speak to staff

  • demand records

Inspectors can order you to cover the cost of the investigation if you break the law.

If you do not comply with the ban

Your local authority must publish details of fine levels, and when it will impose them, on its website.

Appeals and objections

You can object within 28 days of receiving a fine. The fine or letter will tell you how to do so.

You can appeal a penalty if you feel your:

  • fine was wrong, unreasonable or based on an error

  • non-monetary requirement is unreasonable

  • variable amount penalty is too high

Exemptions exist in other sectors too.

Medical devices and purposes exemption

You can supply single-use plastic straws for use as a medical device or for medical purposes, including:

  • preventative medicine

  • medical diagnosis

  • medical research

  • providing medical care and treatment

Packaging exemption

You can supply single-use plastic straws that are used as packaging. For example, some medicines are dispensed through a straw.

Care homes, prisons, schools and early years providers exemption

You can supply single-use plastic straws in:

  • care homes

  • premises used for early years provision

  • schools

  • prisons or other places of detention

Where possible, these establishments should find alternatives to single-use plastic straws.

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