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The Issue with the ‘Refuse the Straw’ Campaign

Recently many people have been campaigning for the prohibition of single-use, plastic straws. Around 2-billion straws are thought to get thrown away every year in London – and many restaurants, bars and clubs have backed the ‘Last Straw’ campaign. Reducing the amount of plastic we use is clearly in the best interests of most people, and preserving our planet should be one of our number one priorities. However, the ‘Refuse the Straw’ campaign fails to take into account one serious issue; straws are an accessibility aid for many disabled people globally.

Using a straw means people with disabilities are able to consume food and drink easily. For me, I am currently suffering from a severe headache that means I have to lie horizontally at all times. This means I am unable to drink without the use of a straw. I also know many people who must use a straw else their jaws dislocate. These are all serious issues that require people to use straws.

Instead of blanket statements that shame the use of the straw, why not place the word ‘plastic’ in the titles of these campaigns, and at the same time offer useful alternatives that can minimise the impact on our planet where possible. Paper straws, metal straws and even reusable silicone straws are an option that could help many people, and if they were available in restaurants and bars, it could provide accessibility for a disabled person.

Many people are quick to jump on the band-wagon of shaming products that provide access to the disabled population. Along a similar theme includes the recent outrage over pre-cut fruit and veg in supermarkets. Again, pre-prepared produce means that not only people with disabilities, but also elderly people, busy families, and even uni students are able to have quick, easy access to healthy food.

The premise behind these campaigns mean well, and I am sure we are all on the same page. Personally, I just think the language needs to be adjusted. ‘Refuse the Plastic Straw: Replace with the Metal Straw’. I also think that these are issues that abled people often overlook, and the main aim of this piece is to get people thinking. Not everyone has the privilege to refuse the straw, and there are many other ways in which we can save the planet that do not discriminate. These include:

  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Cancelling junk mail and catalogues
  • Reusable coffee mug/travel mug
  • Reuse wrapping paper or use cloth to wrap presents
  • Cancel paper bank statements
  • Invest in rechargeable batteries
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