Plastic bags, plastic utensils and straws… single use products like these are definitely problematic, often winding up as ocean waste which not only causes pollution but puts our marine life at risk.
Because of this important problem, there has been a strong push to ban the use of single use straws. Already, a growing list of companies like Starbucks and McDonalds have committed to phasing them out, while cities and countries such as San Francisco, New York City, and Scotland are working towards banning them.
But as these bans begin to take place, people with a disability have taken to social media to voice their opinions.
While a ban would help to protect our environment which of course is a very important goal, it would also make things much more complicated for people with a disability who rely on straws to eat and drink.
Materials other than plastic just don’t do the job. They don’t offer the strength, flexibility, and safety that plastic straws do.
Reusable straws in general are hard to maintain and sterilise which is a potential risk for some with specific health concerns.
Even more so, reusable straws don’t bend and are not flexible which means they are hard for people with a physical disability to use. In fact, bendy straws were originally invented for people in hospital where drinking from a cup or bottle is difficult.
And there are other issues too.
Paper straws? They dissolve at high temperatures or when used for too long, and can also be choking hazard.
Metal straws? They can get too hot or too cold, and can even be a safety risk for those who have facial tics or for those who make sudden movements.
Biodegradable plastic? Plant plastics can cause allergies and they also melt at high temperatures.
What this shows is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Protecting the environment and providing options for people with a disability don’t have to be in competition with one another.
Instead of a ban, people with a disability and advocates have proposed that restaurants and coffee shops could keep plastic straws on hand for people with a disability or the elderly. It’s about giving people options which meet their needs.
What is also really clear is, we need more products out there on the market, as a lot of the alternatives still don’t fit the bill. We need to see companies, manufacturers and governments working together to accommodate people with a disability by developing new environmentally-friendly flexible straws.