Plastic straws should be banned across the UK and replaced with biodegradable paper ones to cut levels of pollution, an SNP MSP has said as she launched a campaign on the issue.
Kate Forbes, whose Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency covers both the east and west coasts of Scotland, said plastic pollution was doing severe damage to wildlife.
The politician said she wanted both the Scottish and UK Governments to ban plastic straws as a step towards a wider crackdown on single-use items such as plastic cutlery and cotton buds.
An alternative would be to start charging drinkers in pubs and restaurants a small levy to use a plastic straw, an approach which has worked well in cutting the use of plastic carrier bags.
Last month the village of Ullapool in the west Highlands became the first in Scotland to ban the use of plastic straws, with all of its 14 cafés, bars and restaurants no longer offering them.
READ MORE: Leader comment: Follow Ullapool’s lead on plastic straws
It is estimated that the UK and US alone throw away around 550 million plastic straws every day. Although each one is used for an average of just 20 minutes, they take centuries to break down.
During a clean-up organised by the Marine Conservation Society last year, an average of 138 pieces of food and drink-related waste were found on every 100m of UK beaches.
“Any ban has got to be UK-wide, because the sea does not respect country borders and plastic straws washed out to sea in the south of England could easily end up on the Highland coastline," Ms Forbes said.
“As part of my campaign I am asking pubs and restaurants to stop handing out straws automatically and to only provide biodegradable alternatives."
The MSP is launching her campaign on Monday at the Royal Hotel in Cromarty, one of the first businesses in her constituency to replace its plastic straws with paper ones.
“I hope others will follow their lead," she said. “Our seas are rich with wildlife. The Highland east coast is home to the world’s most northern pod of bottlenose dolphins and Scotland has the highest number of harbour porpoises in Europe.
“But the majority of seabirds are ingesting plastics and other sea creatures are being injured and suffocated by our plastic pollution."
Ms Forbes has already approached the Scottish Government about the issue, resulting in Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham promising to examine what could be done.
Scotland began charging for the use of plastic bags in 2014 and ministers are also considering whether to introduce a levy for single-use coffee cups.