The UK Government is considering a ban plastic straws, cotton buds and drinks stirrers as part of a wider plan to reduce plastic waste.

Downing Street has said a consultation on the proposed ban will be held later this year, with ministers announcing that 8.5 billion plastic straws are used in the UK every year.

Prime Minister Theresa May said plastic waste is ‘one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world’ and that the UK, a ‘world leader’ in the field, is addressing the issue at the forefront.

May is to hold a speech on the matter at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in a bid to encourage Commonwealth states to adopt an environmental strategy.

She will further highlight the progress that has already been made, from the introduction of a levy on plastic bags to the ban on microbeads and plans for a deposit return scheme in the UK.

She said: “The British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

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“Alongside our domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics. The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines.

“Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.”

The government recently set up a £61.4m fund that will be used to investigate the causes of plastic waste, its management and how to tackle it in the UK and the other Commonwealth countries.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove revealed the possibility of a ban on plastic straws earlier this year. Gove said the government would cooperate with the plastic industry to develop alternative solutions, though the ban would exclude plastic straws used for medical purposes.

In response to the ban, A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland said: “The Prime Minister’s plastic-free vision should be applauded. Plastic cotton buds, straws and drink stirrers are a scourge on our environment and our health. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“In January the Prime Minister vowed to work with Britain’s supermarkets on the introduction of Plastic Free Aisles in their stores. I urge Theresa May to fulfill this pledge urgently, and work with us and the UK’s biggest retailers to make Plastic Free Aisles a reality as soon as possible.

“The Prime Minister’s leadership on plastic is laudable. But we can’t afford to wait years for incremental action against it. I’m calling on Theresa May to help Britons turn off the plastic tap before it’s too late.”

The news comes as a research by market research and data analytics firm YouGov for Keep Britain Tidy and BRITA revealed that UK citizens are failing to ditch single-use plastic.

According to the research, despite the growing awareness raised on the impact of plastic in the past few months, consumer behaviour is all but changed.

Only 36% of people carry around a refillable water container and 17% feel committed to giving up plastics for the sake of the environment.

The findings also revealed that less than half of those surveyed (44%) admitting to feeling sorry for the environment when buying bottled water.