Plastic Straw Bans Are Not The Answer

Julia Gomez/Contributing Writer

In 2015, a graphic video of marine biologists pulling out a plastic straw from a turtle’s nose propelled the movement to ban single-use plastics, specifically straws. They aren’t recyclable due to their small size, so they end up in landfills or the ocean.

In an effort to prevent plastic polluting our ocean, the city of Miami Beach banned plastic cutlery and straws, Coral Gables banned plastic bags and Pinecrest banned plastic straws.

However, the bans are making it difficult for people with disabilities to maneuver through their community as independently as possible.

“With my neuromuscular disability, plastic straws are necessary tools for my hydration and nutrition,”  said Alice Wong in her article “The Last Straw” on Eater. While some may argue that straws are a gateway plastic, something that can lead to a larger conversation about the impacts of plastic on the environment, Wong says the bans lead to the erasure of people, like the elderly or people with disabilities, who need plastic straws in order to survive.

Yes, there are plastic straw alternatives, but they’re targeted towards people who don’t need plastic straws. YouTuber Jessica Kellgren-Fozard created a video explaining why these can be problematic. First, straws made from acrylic, bamboo, metal, paper, pasta and silicone are an allergy risk. While there isn’t a risk of having an allergic reaction when using a glass straw, it’s an injury risk and it isn’t positionable. People who can’t lift their drinks to their mouths or are bedridden aren’t able to drink comfortably.

Others can still be denied plastic straws because “they don’t look disabled.” People, like South Florida native Debbie Mizrahi, who don’t have visible disabilities, are harassed for doing things like parking in handicapped parking spots, so why risk similar occurrences over a straw?

If you can afford to buy reusable straws and have the ability to use them, that’s great. There are some who can’t, and that’s okay. If restaurants want to offer an eco-friendly alternative to plastic, they should offer paper and plastic straws to whoever wants it. 

It’s noble to want to make the environment a better place, but straw bans are negatively affecting people’s lives. We should do everything we can to protect our earth without sacrificing the needs of the most vulnerable in the community.

Featured image by Niels Epting on Flickr.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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