The Plastic Straw Debate: Turtle vs Disabled Person
While the plastic ban has been around for a while now, when it was first announced it was quite the hot topic, so I thought I’d throw my two cents in here.
When plastic bags and, therefore, straws were first banned, everyone was doing it to protect the animals, in particular, the oceanic animals who were swallowing the plastic, but no one thought about the people that actually use and rely on plastic straws.
I’m one of the many people with a disability who use plastic straws. This is not because of choice but because of necessity; it is simply too hard for me to lift a full cup because it’s too heavy. When the news broke that plastic straws would no longer be made, my family literally bulked brought because we need them.
Now before you say to me, but Amy why don’t you just use a reusable straw, here are my reasons why:
Many reusable straws don’t bend and while some straws have a premade bend in them, not being able to move the bend means that I can’t get the straw to the right angle to make it easy for me to drink.
Metal straws get hot, so unless I want to burn my mouth on my straw because it’s been sitting in my hot chocolate too long, I’m not going to use a metal straw. On the other hand, paper straws don’t get hot, but they do go soggy, so this isn’t suitable as well. I actually tried a paper straw the other week as it came with my drink and it wasn’t nice to drink out of either. Bamboo straws would have the same problem.
For hygienic reasons too, I prefer a straw I can throw away. While you can clean reusable straws, you can only clean them so much. As I have a mocha every afternoon too, which is obviously a milk-based drink, would it be safe to use the same straw? What if I want to have more than one drink while I’m out too? Do I have to carry multiple reusable straws or find a way to wash it while I’m out?
Another material you can get reusable straws in is glass. Is this really safe though? What if I drop it and it shatters everywhere? Haha I could puncher a tire!
While these are issues with reusable straws for me, other people with disabilities have other requirements. For example, for people with involuntary movements, having a straw that is hard like metal isn’t any good because they could bite down on it accidentally and break their teeth. Sadly, a woman died after falling onto her straw, though this is the first case reported of a death caused by a reusable straw. For other people, they need the ability of straw to extend a lot, so that the straw can reach their mouth, as they are not able to bend down to reach the straw. By not having extendable straws, this takes away a part of their independence.
Now while writing this post I did do a bit of research and I did come across some silicon straws on Bio Me that are suitable for hot drinks and are soft and flexible. While it doesn’t solve the problem of having to wash them, in terms of reusable straws, they’re the most appropriate to my requirements.
So, if you’re a scientist reading this, if you could invent a machine that uses recyclable plastic to make straws, that would be extremely helpful for everyone! However, if you’re just you, next time a topical debate comes up, don’t just jump on the popular bandwagon, actually think about how this decision will affect others.