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  • Writer's pictureCandis

The Plastic Fight! Protecting the life of Straws

The recent ban on plastic drinking straws has the disABLED community up in roar! Why are we fighting so hard to keep plastic on the table?

The current hot topic of debate in the disABLED community is the recent ban of plastic straws. According to a recent CNN article, the ban is meant to be a proactive step towards “easing” the burden of plastic waste and its effects on our environment.

According to the National Park Service, Americans use an estimated 500 million “drinking straws” per day… “those plastic straws make up a small percentage of debris found in the oceans and other bodies of water.”

Now, obviously no one wants to harm the environment and we all want to create a more healthier, long-lasting world to live and work in… but do we have to take out plastic straws to do this? Is there not a more efficient way of healing our environment other than banning straws?

I’m sure some of you are wondering what’s the big deal? It’s just a straw …. we can deal without them. But to a disabled person who doesn’t have the ability/strength to pick up a glass and put it to their mouths to drink (the image is one I hate to see as well) a straw immediately provides a level of independence… that straw provides us with the basic EQUAL necessity to drink on our own accord. Whether it’s our desire to drink water, juice, a tequila shot or a nice glass of wine, straws make it possible for us to continue to feel normal, while living differently.

Straw-less Starbucks Cup option

One of my favorite coffee shops, Starbucks has stated by 2020 they will no longer be offering plastic straws to patrons and as an alternative they will offer a “sippy-cup” style cup (see picture.) American Airlines has also released a statement indicating in November they will no longer offer drinking straws for in-flight beverages; instead they will offer a replacement in the form of a stir stick?!?

This ban enrages me! Over the past few years I have lost a great deal of strength in my upper body, especially in my arms; and there are some days when I am just too weak to pick up a glass and drink. Unfortunately, this progression in my disability is something that I am still coping with but knowing that when I’m out with friends at happy hour or making a quick coffee run at Starbucks I can ask a restaurant server for a straw and still be able to enjoy my drink with ease… that’s priceless.

But now with the ban they’re snatching that same peace away. I always carry a bag of straws and plastic spoons with me (as many disABLED individuals do) because the straws allow me to easily enjoy my beverages, especially my glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon; and the plastic spoons allow me to eat food without it spilling in-between the slits of the fork.

I currently buy additional plastic straws for my home via Amazon offers a wide variety of straws, more importantly they sale the extra extended flexi-straws, which comes in handy when you need that additional height boost when using longer formed bottles.

Most people who don’t have an issue picking up a cup/glass or don’t have any issues with food spillage while trying to navigate a fork don’t consider these things… but for me (and other people who are disABLED) these small #modifiedhacks are the difference from being independent to being incapacitated.

In the article, Kate Melges, a plastic campaigner at Greenpeace USA and ocean pollution monitor told CNN that “on cleanups she finds more food wrappers and plastic bottles than straws… but she believes straws are a simpler problem to overcome… there a relatively easy item to eliminate… they’re not a necessity for every single person… they’re the first entry point into tackling plastic pollution.”

Come on! She’s clearly stating that straws are not the main problem, but because it’s easier we need to eliminate all of them?!? That’s complete BULL! Let’s stop making shortcuts and handle the real problem. The real problem is food wrappers and plastic bottles! Now to play devil’s advocate, Melges is right, plastic straws are not a necessity for every single person… but in the disabled community it’s the difference between actually enjoying your drink or not even having the opportunity to have a drink at all. Is this really what we’re coming down to?!? Just ignore an entire community of people who will not be able to enjoy something as simple as drinking because straws are the “first entry point into the plastic pollution”?

People need plastic straws! Paper straws dissolve too quickly, metal straws are not safe for multiple degree temperatures, and reusable straws can cause possible sanitary issues.

From a policy standpoint, we HAVE to look at the whole picture (and who it affects) before deciding on banning items. It’s truly disheartening to know that my fellow friends and community will have to (once again) find another way to modify the basic civil right of drinking a refreshing glass or water on a warm day or a hot cup of cocoa on a winter day.

Just because we have to do it differently doesn’t mean we should be punished. Our needs are important too, our right to independent living is just as worthy as an able-bodied individual.

We exist and we matter! Stop revoking our independence just because it’s “an easy entry point.”

Until next time, this is my world... on wheelz!

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