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The Problems with Banning Straws

It’s a well-known problem that we consume a lot of plastic in the United States. Banning small accessories, such as straws and utensils, seems like an easy first step to try and reduce the amount of plastic consumed. With recently passed laws dozens of cities and companies have promised to phase out plastic straws within the next few years. In July, Seattle became the first city to officially pass a ban and other places such as San Francisco, Starbucks, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Vancouver quickly followed. Other places, such as the state of California, are requiring policies that require people to ask for straws before offering them.

However banning straws creates several problems for the disability community. These are often overlooked by people who don’t realize that others may actually require a plastic straw to enjoy their drinks. While most laws passed allow businesses to provide straws to guests who may require one, the wording is often unclear. This puts the responsibility on the people who require them to make sure they can somehow get their own.

For some people, it can be extremely hard or impossible to lift a drink up to sip from it. These drinks are often very hot too, which can make doing so very dangerous. Some may argue that there are alternatives, such as compostable or reusable straws that can be brought into a venue. For people with limited mobility, it can be very difficult to access and use their own straws as opposed to having one already come in a drink. Reusable straws need to be washed, which isn’t an option for everyone. People with food allergies are also often times allergic to compostable straws. Even for those who aren’t, these types of materials often don’t hold up well in hot liquids. These problems are just a few of the many that people with disabilities face when not offered plastic straws.

People with disabilities are speaking out about straw bans, and what it means for them. Ordinances and laws can be protested. Advocates can also send these protests to their city councils, governors, senators and representatives. The more people that speak out for the need of straws, the more people will become aware of the issue, and the closer we can get to solving it.