Sounds silly, doesn’t it. However, take the combined effect of a poorly researched, 9-year-old’s science fair project. Add in a timely photo of a turtle with a straw in its nostril has led to a worldwide movement to ban the evil plastic drinking straws. And anyone who gets in the way will get steamrolled.
The problem is that the data involved suggested as much as 2% of the pollution in the ocean was from plastic drinking straws when the reality is that it is closer to 0.03%. In fact, the highest plastic content in the ocean is not from consumers good as at all. It is, in fact, plastic fishing nets that make up a significant portion of the waste plastic found in the seas.
We Need To Stop And Think Before We Jump
The problem is that I love the idea of working towards creating a cleaner environment and reducing plastics as much as feasible. However, blanket moves in one direction or another should be delayed until the various stakeholders sit down together. There is a need to look closely at just what the best move is and making sure that we do not create a situation where we are seriously damaging people by not planning ahead.
In this particular case, those who are disabled are the ones who are taking this newest fad on the chin. While several chains have made relatively blanket statements indicating they would be moving to ban the product within their chains, a few have acknowledged (after the initial ban once it was brought to their attention) that this would damage the ability of those who have disabilities and made moves to modify their original plans to attempt to create a solution. In some cases, the solution is troubling. One example is having to ask the staff for a straw. Therefore giving the staff member the responsibility to decide if they have a disability or not. This puts the disabled in a position of having to defend their disability, something that should never happen.
Current Reusable Options Are Falling Short Of The Mark
Others suggest the use of recyclable options however they come with their own hazards. Some were no good for hot drinks (glass and metal straws). Others are too rigid for those who require a bendable straw. Paper straws will break down and flake if left in the drink for too long. This can cause significant issues for someone with restricted breathing. Bamboo and other products can change the taste of the drink or absorb the taste of the drink. The best option of all would be silicon. However, even those are not a great option for those whose disability includes biting or chewing (such as autism or those with muscle control issues). In addition, all of these products need to be cleaned which can cause significant problems for those with mobility or dexterity issues.
I have even heard of a group of 60 festivals in the UK who have signed a mutual agreement to ban all straws. They also plan to work to ban all disposable cups within a couple years. However, for all I have looked, I have seen no discussions surrounding them creating an exemption for the disabled.
Much Of The Push Back From The Environmentalist Has Been Ablist At Best, And Often Almost Anti Disability
Environmentalists get quickly offended when it is pointed out that this ban is very much anti-disabled. I have seen some point out that an inconvenience to the disabled is surely nothing compared to the great benefit it will have on the environment. However, they are wrong on two counts. One, it is not an inconvenience, it is a violation of their basic human rights to be reasonably accommodated. Two, it is not a great benefit to the environment. It is a minuscule move in the right direction but it is no more than surface fluff. There are far bigger and better projects that would have a significantly higher return. Like banning plastic bags and forcing fishing vessels (and all other ships) to return all garbage and broken equipment to the dock. Another great move toward reducing plastic would be the banning of plastic pop and water bottles.
Those who point to current reusable options routinely ignore the problems associated with them. They seem to be hoping that if they yell loud enough and point long enough, the disabled who are doing no more then fighting for their rights will shut up and go away.
This Type Of Environmentalist Fad Is Not The First
It has been pointed out that this current fad is not much different then the huge uproar in the 80’s over the plastic rings around six-packs of pop and beer. Now while I do not know the situation with beer, I do know that they eventually fixed the issue with the plastic rings for the pop. This was done by making them so that they had an easy tear line. This made not only removing the bottles easier but removed the problem so that it did not pose the same threat to the fish.
Don’t get me wrong, the issue of plastic and garbage in the ocean is a serious problem and growing larger. There are many things associated with this and we do need to take action. One of the first steps needs to be making sure that fishermen have to account for all their nets. A mandatory trackable GPS on all nets is actually one way. This would allow them to find nets lost due to storms or other damage. Requiring all damaged nets to be returned to the dock is another major one, especially if fines were imposed.
Yes, We Can Do Better At Reducing Plastics And Recycling As Well. Far Better Than A Ban On Drinking Straws.
Doing a proper job of recycling all existing plastics. There needs to be a way to recycle all plastics that we use on a day to day basis. Currently, too much of this stuff ends up in the landfill unnecessarily. Actual real movement on banning single-use plastic bags in grocery stores. Part of this means making reusable grocery bags easily available and durable enough to be used for years.
Significant fines for those who dispose of their plastics or other garbage anywhere but a proper waste receptacle. And actively working with third world and developing countries to create solid recycling and waste removal programs. These are all steps that would be logical moves towards reducing waste. However, the movement to ban plastic bags always seems to fizzle out without any real results, or at best a pay per bag cost while every attempt to ban bottled water is met with the threat of legal action from major conglomerates who sell it. Unfortunately, these are actual steps that make much more sense than the banning of plastic straws.