April 19 (UPI) -- The British government on Thursday announced a ban on the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs.
Officials hope the ban, expected to be enforced starting later this year, will help protect rivers and seas and meet the country's 25 Year Environment Plan to eliminate avoidable plastic waste, a policy inspired by Sky's Ocean Rescue campaign.
"Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting," British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement.
A recent study revealed 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year in Britain, contributing to 150 million tons of plastic in the ocean that kill a million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals because they eat or get tangled in the plastic waste, according to the statement.
Last month, the British government vowed to introduce a deposit return for bottles and cans and a tax on single-use coffee cups is also in the works.
Earlier this year, the country banned the use of microbeads found in products like facial scrubs and toothpaste, and a seven-cent plastic bag charge was introduced to supermarkets in 2015.
"The U.K. Government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbeads ban," May said. "Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it."