Gilbert and other people with physical disabilities fear that a growing effort to ban plastic straws will limit their accessibility at restaurants, on airliners and at other service establishments .
Starbucks announced Monday that by 2020
, it will phase out the use of all plastic straws in its coffeehouse. This arrived a little more than a week after Seattle, the birthplace of the coffee giant, banned plastic straws and utensils
from the city’s eateries, bars and food trucks .
American Airlines said Tuesday that it too will eliminate straws
from its in-flight liquor service from the very beginning of November, replacing them with stir sticks. The announcement follows a similar move by Alaska Airlines .
The bannings are meant to be a proactive step in easing the burden that plastic trash has on our environment. But they also may induce life more complicated for people in the disabled community who rely on these tools .
Why plastic is better than alternative materials
Going without straws can mean fighting through the physical motion of putting a drink to a mouth, or leaking liquid into the lungs, or choking .
Emily Ladau, an activist and writer on disability issues, has Larsen disorder, a disorder that affects the development of bones. Ladau is primarily affected in her lower body, so she does not will vary depending on straw, but opts for them because it can be difficult to maneuver in a wheelchair and drink at the same period .
For people who need straws, materials other than plastic simply don’t do the job .
Paper? It dissolves, or you can bite through them. Metal? It can get too hot or too cold, and can even be painful for those working with symptoms like jitters. Reusable straws can easily be forgotten at home .
“Other types of straws simply do not offer the combined effects of strength, flexible, and safety that plastic straws do, ” Disability Rights Washington, a nonprofit with offices in Seattle, said in a letter it coauthored to the city .
Gilbert has tried to do his part to educate others on why plastic is the most efficient material, but he often gets told he’s wrong .
“I’d be more than happy to use more environmentally friendly straws, ” he told. “( The incapacitated community) isn’t trying to be anti-environment. We’re simply protecting disabled people.”
Starbucks, when asked about steps they would take to accommodate the disabled, said in an email, “Customers are still able to get a straw — made from alternative materials — and we will work with the disability community to ensure we continue to meet their needs going forward.”
It is unclear what those materials will be or if plastic straws would still be available .
The London Plane, a Seattle restaurant, started use compostable plastic straw before the ban, which may be an ideal compromise .
But Kate Melges, the plastics campaigner at environmental group Greenpeace USA, said those straws still pose a threat as they must be incinerated at high temperatures to be broken down, which causes air pollution .
“You can’t just hurl them in your garden, ” she said .
Why focus on straws?
The National Park Service estimates
that Americans use 500 million “drinking straws” a day .
Melges, who monitors ocean pollution, told CNN that plastic straws make up a small percentage of the dust found in the oceans and other bodies of water .
On cleanups, she procures many more food wrappers and plastic bottles than straws. But she believes straws are a simpler problem to overcome .
“They’re a relatively easy item to remove, ” she said. “They’re not a necessity for every single person … they’re the first entry point into tackling plastic pollution.”
What the Seattle ban means
In the Seattle ordinance
, there is a yearlong exception for those working with disabilities .
“The new director’s rule offer a waiver for flexible plastic straws, which can be provided to customers who need such a straw due to medical or physical condition, ” City of Seattle spokeswoman Ellen Pepin-Cato told CNN .
Proof of a disability will not be necessary, Pepin-Cato told. However, the decision to to provide plastic straws if needed is up to businesses .
“Requiring people with disabilities to treat a routine fast food trip as something that requires scheming and supplyings is an unplanned failing in equity, ” wrote Disability Rights Washington in its letter to the city .
Ladau, the disability activist, conveyed similar concerns .
“Straw prohibitions are a microcosm of the larger issue, ” she said. “Access needs are entirely ignored.”
In other cities with straw prohibitions, such as Miami Beach, Florida, there’s no such exception. Miami Beach is, however, considering enforcing a three-month educational program to get feedback from residents and business .
“The( Americans with Disabilities Act) was passed 28 years ago, ” Gilbert told. “There should be sweeping policies.”
Read more: https :// www.cnn.com/ 2018/07/ 11/ health/ plastic-straw-bans-disabled-trnd/ index.html