The government has launched a consultation to seek views regarding the banning of plastic straws, plastic stemmed cotton buds and plastic drink stirrers for sale or distribution in England.
While banning single-use plastic straws could be a win for environmentalists, for some disabled people plastic straws are essential for drinking, allowing the user to maintain independence while drinking. Disabled people who live with muscle weakness and other impairments require plastic straws because it’s the only material suited to drinking both hot and cold liquids that maintains its rigidity over time and exposure to liquid.
Plastic straws are not only insensitive to temperature, but sanitary, and able to bend to any angle. They’re also not a choking hazard or injury risk.
While non-disabled and some disabled consumers may be able to use the alternatives – metal, bamboo, glass, silicone, paper or pasta straws – disabled people who require straws do not have a safe alternative to single-use plastic.
The banning of plastic straws contributes to the so-called disability tax, which puts the burden of providing accessible solutions back onto the disabled person – this already costs disabled people up to £570 per month, according to Scope.
Disability rights group One in Five are campaigning for manufacturers to produce environmentally friendly, flexible, non-plastic straws that are suitable for hot and cold drinks, fulfilling the role of disposable single-use straws while still being environmentally friendly. Until this is the case, disabled people need single-use plastic straws. UNITE would urge you to share your views with the government to ensure disabled people still have access to something that is vital for them to live fully and independently.
Respond to the consultation – you have until 3 December to have your views heard!
Read more about how the banning of plastic straws impacts the lives of disabled people:
Banning Plastic Straws Is Great For The Environment, But Bad For People With Disabilities
The important reason why the plastic straw ban doesn’t work for everyone
I rely on plastic straws and baby wipes. I’m disabled – I have no choice
Plastic straw ban disadvantages disabled people, says Paralympian
Disabled people like me are made to feel selfish for using plastic straws – but we have no other option
Image: Flickr/Horia Varlan