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Of All the Other Things, a Straw Ban?

By LEND Outreach Coordinator, Tracee L. Garner

There is a little piece of plastic that’s causing great distress, anger and annoyance recently in the disability community and we’re all talking about it. Even if you’re not a person with a disability, I’m sure you heard about it and may have gotten on the bandwagon to outright ban it.
What is that? It’s a straw people. A small, plastic tube used to get what’s in a glass or cup into your mouth so you can enjoy it, savor it, or just plain hydrate, you know so you don’t pass out in this heat?

Imagine the issues the we as a disability community have when glasses are too heavy for us to lift or a type of spasticity common to folks with cerebral palsy, bite down on something so hard, that it’s relatively uncontrollable for them and could cause them to hurt their jaw or loose a tooth. Have you ever thought about it in this way? No, because it only affects a small population of folks?
The same old arguments about why we need these straws is getting old, so, I have three other important reasons we need to look at other things besides the straw.

  1. You are “picking on” the straw. This device has purpose and a use for a segment of the population but you ignore bags, bottles, aerosol cans, and a host of other household waste that is not only deadly but equally tends to end up in our landfills, once beautiful oceans and poisons the water supply we drink?
  2. There are fines for everything from jaywalking, to driving too slow to littering but we don’t necessarily enforce them. Raise the fine for litter and people may be more cognizant of tossing their trash on the ground and streets.
  3. Wales, dolphins and other large mammals have been examined upon their death by marine biologist and other animal and wildlife protection agencies and have found, sadly, both cancerous tumors and an actual crowbar inside their bodies. Now the fact that any animal could accidently swallow a crowbar should outrage you more than a straw. Not to mention, there are those little green stoppers from Starbucks, they are convenient, and they are really called Beverage Plugs and they contain the hole of your cup that you drink from, but are also made of thick plastic. Beverage plus are just as deadly to our animals but you realize that because you “NEED” it to prevent you from spilling your latte or coffee on your crisp white, shirt before you get to work, that it stays because it’s essentially an important necessity for you. The beverage plus is somehow protected because it will help keep you clean for the day.
My point is that we over look so many other glaring problems in our consumer waste system and our recycling efforts and spend an inordinate amount of time hammering and advocating for the complete removal or something else entirely, no matter what others need.

This, dare I say, small but truly helpful piece of plastic is perfectly engineered and has many uses but most importantly, it’s use on behalf of people with disabilities. We should be challenged with finding a way to make it more biodegradable and there are such options, yet they cost a little more and that affects suppliers and restauranteurs bottom line however marginal it is. What we should really be exploring are the ways we can enforce our laws, and omit other things, like store grocery bags, when you could simply supply your own. That’s one really good example of one thing that seems to me, completely wrong. I can’t think of a single reason why we need the plastic grocery bag. Some might say because you forget yours all the time and I understand that, and when that happens, they are displayed near the checkout line, and you should pay one dollar each time and I bet at some point, you’ll start remember. It’s something like this example that I just can’t understand, to ban the straw instead of the plastic bag when there is a healthy alternative?

We should all be more vigilant about dumping trash responsibly, littering, finding ways to recycle and reuse everything we possibility can, while ensuring that we ALL do our best part to properly dispose of whatever we use, whether it’s convenient to you or not is beyond the point because every single item created, is ultimately convenient to someone but is it worth the cost to our environment? What can YOU stop using today that will make a real, and truly impactful difference?