The Plastic Straw Debate

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Did you know that plastic straws are being banned all across the world? That sounds like an amazing thing for the environment and wildlife. Don’t get me wrong, it is, but in the process, this straw ban is harming millions of disabled people. Most people are able to drink a beverage with or without a straw. It is just a matter of preference. However, for disabled people who have problems in dexterity, holding weight, or need to have their carers help them drink, this poses a huge problem. Straws are an integral way to allow someone to drink any type of beverage, with little difficulty. This ban is literally making drinking impossible for people. So why is it happening? First, let’s look at the reason behind it.

The plastic straw ban began in because of demand from eco-friendly consumers. Specifically in the U.K, Starbucks and McDonalds began phasing out the straws. The U.S took notice and Seattle became the first city to completely ban the straws in June of 2018.  Starbucks even announced that they will have gotten rid of all plastic straws by 2020. This past June, Santa Barbara, CA passed “a bill banning the distribution or sale of plastic straws at bars, restaurants and other establishments, with plastic stirrers and cutlery only available upon request” (Palmer, Ewan). Many other cities and states are considering banning straws as well.

There is a great ecological benefit of this ban, considering that Americans alone, use 390 million plastic straws per day. These straws are not biodegradable and are the 8th most commonly found ocean trash. Also, “plastic straws take up to 200 years to degrade, but will never be fully off the Earth, as plastics are not biodeagradable. To make matters worse, the degrading of plastic releases chemicals that are toxic to wildlife and the environment” (Hugh). It is true that these straws are harming wildlife as well. “Over 1 million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic” (Hugh). There is a 50% chance that an animal or fish who eats a plastic straw will die. With all of these negatives, this ban sounds like a very positive thing, right?

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I understand why we need to remove plastic from the environment. However, it could have been done in a much more considerate way. Having straws available only upon request physically segregates the disabled population. Plus, plastic straws are not even the most common trash item found in the ocean. Cigarettes and cigarette filters are the number one source of ocean trash. That isn’t even plastic! Plastic comes in the scene at the third spot in the form of plastic bottles. Straws are at number seven. Meaning we have cigarettes, food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic bags, caps/lids, plastic cutlery, and then straws. Why couldn’t we choose to tackle one of the larger problems first? Considering that there is over three times more trash in the ocean from cigarettes and twice as much plastic bottles than straws. Wouldn’t our efforts reap more reward from tackling the source of a larger problem?

As disabled people, we now have to ask for a necessity, whilst getting judged for it. We are now “ruining the environment” as well.  It is further highlighting the line between disabled and non-disabled people. Disabled people are now running into more barriers just getting something to eat out.  There are even restaurants that do not offer straws at all. So what is one to do then? Bring their own? People are afraid that this ban is going to create another source of difficulty in their everyday lives that they definitely do not need.

Now you may ask, what about reusable straws? I think it is a great point and they do work for some disabled folks. However, many varieties of reusable straws tend to pose a problem. Paper straws are great, but they melt in hot liquids. Metal straws are durable, but are stuck in one position. Silicon straws are bendy, but not flexible enough. Glass straws, which I didn’t even knew existed, are breakable and transfer the heat from hot beverages. The plastic straw combines every element that one needs to be able to drink, no matter their ability level. Plastic straws offer a certain kind of bendiness and plasticity, making it possible to drink any kind of drink.

So what is the solution? As a country and world together, we need to be focusing our efforts on things that are affecting the environment much more than straws are. We cannot outlaw plastic straws for the sake of the millions with disabilities. As there are some disabled people who can only use plastic straws, should restaurants be obligated to carry those straws for accessibility purposes? Again, I think the reduction of plastic in the ocean is an amazing thing, but it needs to be done in a mutually agreeable way. Whatever the solution may be, my goal is to raise awareness on this issue. I may not physically be able to change how companies/restaurants are operating, but I can make this issue known. You never know, maybe someone who reads this can.

Thanks for reading today’s post! Please share this story to help raise awareness on the discrimination that is happening. What do you think of the plastic straw ban? Do you have any alternate options to this situation? Subscribe and I’ll see you next time, my Un-imaginables!


Sources:

Hitselberger, Karin. “Plastic Straw Bans Are the Latest Policy to Forget the Disability Community.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 July 2018, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/07/12/plastic-straw-bans-are-the-latest-policy-to-forget-the-disability-community/?noredirect=on.

Hugh. “The Environmental Impact of Plastic Straws – Facts, Statistics, and Infographic.” Get Green Now, 11 Feb. 2019, get-green-now.com/environmental-impact-plastic-straws/.

Jabril, Sara. “The Top 10 Items That Are Polluting Our Oceans | FairPlanet.” Fair Planet, FairPlanet, 8 May 2019, http://www.fairplanet.org/story/the-top-10-items-that-are-polluting-our-oceans/.

Jessie-Quinn. “Plastic Straw Ban: Why Starbucks and Other Restaurants Are Doing Away With Straws, Utensils, and More.” The Cheat Sheet, The Cheat Sheet, 9 July 2018, http://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/plastic-straw-ban-what-to-use-instead-of-plastic-straws.html/.

Palmer, Ewan. “California City Imposes 6-Month Jail Term for Breaking Plastic Straw Ban.” Newsweek, 27 July 2018, http://www.newsweek.com/plastic-straw-ban-you-can-be-sent-jail-breaking-new-law-california-city-1043944.

Wong, Alice. “Banning Plastic Straws Is a Huge Burden on Disabled People.” Eater, Eater, 19 July 2018, http://www.eater.com/2018/7/19/17586742/plastic-straw-ban-disabilities.

Original Image (1) by Rupert Kittinger-Sereinig from Pixabay

Original Image (2) by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

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