Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

A recent debate with a family member prompted some research on plastic straw bans and people with disabilities – we needed to know if the bans are unfair or if straws are just the “fall guy” as a starting point for conservation.

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

People With Disabilities Need Them for Medical Reasons

First, I was told that some people with disabilities could not function without plastic straws. I needed more information, so I searched for data, statistics, and proof.

The plastic straw bans fell into two categories of inconvenience for people with disabilities; medical and spontaneity.

On the medical side, I found plenty of information about people who absolutely need straws in order to drink without filling their lungs with fluid.

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

Loss of Spontaneity

That led to the spontaneity issue – and whether it’s unfair for people with disabilities to have the option of last-minute beverage plans inaccessible to them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of disabilities that preclude people from spur-of-the-moment actions. I thought about one of my students who cannot simply zip out of her house without her insulin pump.

This led me to wonder about the adaptations performed by left-handed people, people with poor eyesight, wheelchairs, and other challenges.

So, agreed, spontaneity is going to be less if we are going to go plastic-free. People who have no disabilities are willingly relinquishing spur-of-the-moment actions daily. They are purposely putting reusable grocery bags in their cars for shopping. More and more people are bringing their own multi-use containers to restaurants when they know they will have leftovers and want to be able to decline the styrofoam takeaway boxes.

For the sake of the Earth, more people are choosing to plan ahead and make ecoconscious choices in their purchasing and consumption. We had a win/fail recently; Attempting a Plastic-Free Vacation in the Florida Keys trip to the Florida Keys, and we learned that it does take a lot of observation and planning to purposely avoid plastic!

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible


After settling that yes, it’s a medical need and yes, people who need straws might have to plan ahead and pack their own, it was inevitable to ask what about before plastic use was widespread.

Historically, people who needed used rubber straws. However, they were hard to clean.

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

Drawbacks of the Alternatives

Surely, I thought, there must be alternatives. I continued reading, even though I knew what I would find. Metal straws could pose a safety risk, are inflexible, and, conduct heat and cold. That makes them difficult to use for people with issues of mobility.

Paper straws fall apart too quickly, collapse, are susceptible to accidental bites. Reusable straws require cleaning, and that’s difficult for someone with limited mobility. Silicone straws are not sufficiently flexible.

Even now, there’s a set of metal straws stashed in our car for last-minute restaurant decisions. However, I actually prefer to drink from a glass rather than use a metal or plastic straw. I always have. My lips work just fine!

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

Why Should We Even Use Straws?

A friend of mine says sometimes waiters and waitresses hold glasses by the rims, and that is why I shouldn’t let my lips touch the glass.

In that case, why aren’t people bringing their own eating utensils – because I can guarantee you those are touched near the tines and blade even more often than the rims of glasses!

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

Biodegradable – the Perfect Solution!

My first thought was that I have very purposely chosen a sunscreen, shampoo, and conditioner that are reef-safe, but also arrive in completely biodegradable containers. So, let’s just all use biodegradable plastics!

While there are other sunscreens on the market that also are safe for our oceans, one huge issue set Stream2Sea apart from the others for me – being presented in single-use plastic tubes or containers. I chose a company that uses tubes manufactured of sugar cane resin, Stream2Sea, and you can read about their ecocon packaging here.

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

Solution! “Plasticless” Straws!

So, that’s it, I’ve solved the problem, right? Plant-based, compostable straws! Also, if you love this idea, there are “guilt-free” biodegradable disposable cups with lids that break down in months instead of thousands of years as well. Like the straws, they are disposable, plasticless, and reasonably-priced, and as sturdy as their plastic counterparts.

Not completely solved – I haven’t solved the spontaneity problem; people who need straws in order to drink would still have to byos – bring your own straw. And…

Restaurants and retailers will need to completely change over to plastic-free straws, and even cups. They would have to commit to slightly more expensive alternatives, in an industry that operates on a very small profit margin. Prices might rise. We would have to commit to paying a slightly higher price for the convenience.

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

The Straw as the Fall Guy

The idea that “we have to start somewhere” had occurred to me; that maybe straws are not the worst offender in the plastic battle, but an easy target. Outright bans of plastic bags have already become more and more prevalent, not only in grocery stores, but even in other retailers.

Companies like Stream2Sea are bound by distributor requirements to present their wares in plastic bags, so they are moving to biodegradable alternatives that look and feel like plastic bags.

Lately, I have noticed more and more companies making promises to be plastic-free by 2020 or 2021. They are completely changing their packaging tape, bags, and more to be completely recycled and/or recyclable. Paper wrappers are becoming more common. Companies have begun to change, even ordering milk for their break rooms in paper or glass!

Hopefully, more and more single-use plastic items will be reduced and eliminated over the next couple years. So, yes, straws might have been seen as an accomplishable first step. A good goal would be for all of us to become more ecoconscious in all of our choices.

It’s not always convenient, and we might have to consume less and consume differently. Lately, I find myself questioning every purchase. How was the fiber in this material produced? Was this bamboo coffee stirrer produced in a humane manner? So many decisions…

, Plastic Straw Bans // People With Disabilities // Being Flexible

Start Right Now

Do your part in protecting our oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams! For instance, after you’ve figured out how to dispose of all your toxic sunscreens in their plastic containers; treat yourself to a new tube of Stream2Sea sunscreen this season. Here’s a 10% off discount to reward you for being environmentally conscious; just use “KimW” at the checkout.

What to Read Next: How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

What to Watch Next: Trying & Applying Reef Safe Mineral Sunscreen – Tinted and White // Deep Water Happy


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