The UK government has announced a ban on the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England.
In a statement released by the Department for Environment, Food and Agriculture, the changes will come into force from next year.
It comes after a public consultation, which saw 80 per cent of people back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said: "Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment. These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life.
Almost two billion cotton buds are used in England every year. Credit: PA
"So today I am taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution, and ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations."
It's estimated that in people in England use 4.7 billion plastic straws every year, along with 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds - around 10 per cent of which are flushed down the toilet and end up in waterways and oceans.
The ban has been welcomed by Surfers Against Sewage, a charity which works to reduce the amount of plastic in the oceans, who said it was a 'bold step' in the fight against pollution.
Hugo Tagholm, the group's CEO, said: "Surfers Against Sewage welcome the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. Stopping the production and distribution of these single-use plastic menaces will prevent them from polluting beaches nationwide. It's a really positive and bold step in the right direction in the battle against plastic pollution.
"It is also helps further drive plastic-free options and alternatives for the public so they can truly make more sustainable choices in their daily lives."
The new ban will come into place from 2020. Credit: PA
Jeremy Darroch, Group Chief Executive, Sky, has also backed the ban.
He said: "Single use plastic is a disease of our own making. We're working hard to get rid of it and completely agree with Michael Gove that urgent and decisive action is needed."
Despite the ban, however, the government has assured members of the disabled community and those needing medical attention, that measures will include exemptions to make sure those who need to are able to access plastic straws.
Lauren West, Trailblazers manager at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: "If disabled people cannot access plastic straws when out it could put their health at risk as they may not be able to drink and could become dehydrated.
"We're pleased the Government has recognised this in its proposals put forward today. We would encourage Defra to continue consulting disabled people and groups like Trailblazers to ensure we are not disadvantaged or targeted and stigmatised for using single-use plastics."
Featured Image Credit: PA