On social media, there has been a lot of discussion about cities banning plastic straws. After seeing the video of a straw being pulled out of a turtle’s nose (?), this seemed like a good idea. After all, do we really need plastic straws? And places like Disney’s Animal Kingdom and many zoos already use paper straws. Why don’t we go that route?
Very quickly, I learned how wrong that thinking was. I was ignoring the needs of those with disabilities. Many people struggle to drink without straws. And I know what you’re thinking. “Well, those people should bring their own straws.” And I’m sure some do. But that can be easier said than done.
Right now, stainless steel straws are all the rage. I have them. I like them. But stainless steel straws can cause issues. They’re hard. If you don’t have full control of your head or neck, or have issues with your jaw clamping down, you could injure yourself with a stainless steel straw. I’m not sure I’d give a drink to a kid with a stainless steel straw, that’s for sure.
Okay, so they make silicone straws. That should solve a lot of the above mentioned problems, right? Yes. Except that reusable straws, while easy for me to clean, are not so easy to clean for people with mobility issues. Getting a little brush to go into the small hole of a straw can be a challenge. And that also assumes that the person has the energy to clean it at the end of the day.
And I’m sure many people reading this are thinking “Okay, but there are ways around all of this.” And while that’s technically true, should we be making it even harder for people with disabilities to function in the world?
Paper straws also aren’t perfect. They do start to disintegrate. If a person’s jaw tends to clamp down, they can quickly destroy the straw before finishing their beverage. And have you watched a kid with a paper straw? Doesn’t always go so well.
A better solution would be for straws to be available upon request, or simply offered instead of automatically given. Then if someone needs a straw, they can get one, but maybe fewer people will take the straw.
Also, are we over-demonizing straws? Any plastic waste is bad, but I’m pretty sure there are many other items that are creating even more plastic waste than straw use.
I’ve become fascinated by people who have reduced their trash so much that they can put six months worth of garbage into a mason jar.
I will never be one of those people.
However, I can make smarter choices in what and how I buy. I can be sure to recycle everything that’s recyclable and compost everything that’s compostable. I can be better about bringing my reusable bags to the store. I can use cloth bags for produce instead of plastic. I can use cloth instead of paper napkins and paper towels.
And I can try to say no when offered a straw at a restaurant. (Besides, some studies have shown that drinking from straws can lead to early wrinkles around your mouth, and I certainly don’t want that!)