For people that use plastic straws out of want rather than necessity, it’s easy to hear about the straw bans going around the country and not really care. However, for some people with certain disabilities and their advocates, this is a huge deal.
It’s important to note that the justification for the popular straw ban is to keep plastic out of the ocean. It is estimated that in the US alone, 500 million straws are thrown away each day. Unless the straw is recycled, it ends up either in a landfill or becomes litter on the ground or the ocean, where it has become extremely dangerous for marine life, specifically sea turtles. Plastic is not biodegradable, and therefore it remains as a pollutant for quite a long time. So, logically, to stop using them would prevent a lot of waste.
However, single-use straws provide a convenient and easier way for people with disabilities to drink beverages.
Single-use straws don’t need to be sterilized and provide superior flexibility compared to reusable ones. They are also very cheap- you can get 300 single-use straws on Amazon for the same price that you would pay for 10 reusable stainless steel ones. This is why there is a push to keep them in restaurants. Restaurants simply are not going to pay for reusable straws.
Changing our use of single-use straws will disproportionately affect people with disabilities. It would be hard to argue that it wouldn’t- but I think that it would do a lot of good. I have a friend that has Cerebral Palsy, and for him, using a straw, reusable or not, is impossible. He cannot close his mouth enough to create suction. The point that I am trying to make is that banning straws would affect people with disabilities on a case-by-case basis.
I think the key is to keep straws and give them upon request. People don’t always need one, and they usually get one anyways. Personally, I don’t ask for them. Some advocates and people with disabilities argue that this is just an extra burden for them to have to ask. The truth is, there will have to be some kind of compromise. I also think that if you really need something, at some point you should be prepared to provide it for yourself.
The whole point of banning single-use straws is not to oppress people with disabilities, and I don’t think it would be fair to try to warp the idea in that way. It is to try to keep plastic out of our environment and to reduce people’s dependency on something that they use once and throw away.
I think something similar should be done in fast food restaurants regarding dine-in customers. There’s no reason why restaurants can’t use reusable plates, cups, and silverware for people eating in. We all need to think of ways that we can have less of a negative impact on our environment.
Almost all of us have terrible habits revolving waste and we all need to do better. I think it’s great that people spoke up about the repercussions of discontinuing the use of disposable straws, and that we should continue to expand and refine the discussion so that we can make some real and impactful changes for our planet.