Plastic straws, bans, and disabilities

Straws are damaging to the environment, but to some, they are a necessity (/img)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | July 31st, 2018

Plastic straws are undeniably devastating for the environment. Roughly 500 million single-use plastic straws are disposed of each year in the United States alone, and the growing plastic pollution problem is concerning for many reasons. Straws are among the most common things found during beach clean-ups, and other forms of single-use plastic, like to-go containers and cups, are also a huge contributing problem.

There are biodegradable alternatives to plastic straws, like ones made of plant-based plastics, paper, and glass. But these are over four times more expensive per piece than a regular plastic straw, and it’s an investment that some businesses are hesitant to make.

The campaign to ban plastic straws entirely has gained incredible ground in a short amount of time, with California’s Santa Barbara leading by example and proposing an outright ban on the selling and use of plastic straws, with some hefty consequences for violating these rules. The move has been criticized–both because of its reported six-month jail time for breaking the ban, and the blatant disregard for the disabled community.

Many disabled people need straws in order to drink. Everything from Parkinson’s to severe mobility issues can completely render an individual unable to dispose of straws as they are not a luxury for some, but an important and necessary tool. Existing straw alternatives, like paper or glass, don’t have the flexibility or durability of traditional plastic straws that some disabled people need.

Supporters of the plastic straw ban are hopeful that innovation will find a biodegradable alternative for the disabled community in the future.


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