Calls to ban plastic straws have been a permanent feature of many Environmental movements across the globe over the past few years.
The reasons behind these calls are certainly valid.
The UK uses close to 8.5 Billion straws per year (that’s approximately 130 straws per person).
That is indeed, a lot of straws. And the real issue comes after we’ve finished using them. The majority of our straws don’t end up in the Recycling process.
This means each straw can take up to 200 years to decompose, and it is estimated that plastic straws contribute a whopping 7% of the total global plastic waste.
So the environmental argument is sound. No problems there.
BUT, there is an often neglected detail to this issue.
The use of Plastic Straws by people with disabilities.
What the Environmental lobbies tend to neglect, is that a significant proportion of our community rely on the use of these straws for everyday activities.
While it might be easy for some to ditch the straws of their McDonalds Coke, for anyone with a condition such as a Progressive Neuromuscular disability, these straws are the only way they can actually drink anything.
The ‘bendy’ plastic straw was in fact invented in 1937 by Joseph Friedman, after he noticed his daughter struggling to drink out of a straight straw.
Since Friedman’s timeless invention, bendy plastic straws have been a godsend for people with certain disabilities, allowing them to access to safely and independently consume their beverages without risk of spilling, or needing to ask for the help of others.
In other words, while the bendy plastic straw may be a “menace” to some, for others, they are crucial to maintaining an element of independence and comfort in their lives.
But this perspective is seldom understood.
That is the aim of this article, and our movement in general at Disabled Dating. To raise awareness of this perspective.
Yes, we want to help people with disabilities find fulfilling relationships.
But we’re also determined to raise awareness about the lives, ambitions, struggles and dreams of people with disabilities too.
That’s the bigger picture :)
The problem after all, we hope, does not lie in deliberate discrimination. But more lack of understanding.
If Environmental Activists understood how important these straws are for the most basic of human functions; eating & drinking, then perhaps they might understand how a TOTAL BAN could severely impact on the well-being of those who truly need them.
There are alternatives, yes. But they are, unfortunately, not particularly helpful.
Some of the ‘heavy-duty’ straws, such as Bamboo or Metal present an Injury Risk. ‘Lighter’ versions, such as Paper, present a Choking risk. Plus, they can’t be used for high-temperature food or drink, such as soups.
Some have suggested for plastic straws to be available on a prescription, which sounds sensible, until the cost factor is taken into account.
Why should people with disabilities have to add plastic straws onto a seemingly never-ending list of additional expenses, just so they can perform basic daily tasks? Tasks that many simply take for granted.
We’re not saying that the Environmental impact of plastic straws shouldn’t be considered.
But we must point out that a full ban of bendy plastic straws could have severe impact on the quality of lives of an often-neglected section of society.
More care and consideration needs to be put into this, in order to safeguard the rights of people with disabilities, and ensure that these are protected just as rigorously as our efforts to protect our Environment.