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Seattle is the latest city to enact a plastic straw ban, a law that many in the disability community say takes away a necessary tool for them.
On Sunday, the plastic straw ban went into full effect in Seattle as a part of an ordinance started in 2008 to reduce waste. It began with banning styrofoam and non-recyclable food service items and now includes service ware and straws, with a $250 fine for those who don’t comply.
While not banning single-use products may seem like a simple solution to reducing waste, the disability community is speaking out against this law and reminding abled people that what is simple for them isn’t simple for everyone. Many disabled people need straws in order to drink and take their medications.
How many people who want to ban plastic straws (and say that disabled people should carry reusable ones with them everywhere) remember to take their reusable coffee cup every single time they get a latte?— Beth Wilson (@doodle_beth) July 2, 2018
Instead of simply saying that they'd like a straw, people may be forced to defend their medical need.— Heretical Jesus Follower (@bibleblvheretic) July 2, 2018
While there are exemptions for “manufacturers of approved compostable utensils and straws,” according to the Seattle Public Utilities, restaurants are not required to carry these alternatives, making it likely that many will just stop carrying straws entirely. In addition, those alternatives are often costly, and many do not meet the needs of people with disabilities. Most glaringly, some people with disabilities do not have the physical capacity to clean reusable straws.
This may help describe this to a large group of people, would still need text description though. pic.twitter.com/pKkrdExEXJ— AccessibleDan ♿️ (@AccessibleDan) July 2, 2018
using reusable straws at home isn't feasible for many of us either, because they're hard to clean & we don't have that extra energy.— blu skye (@disabilisaur) July 2, 2018
many of us even use single-use dishes because we just can't wash dishes.
you just make our lives harder without offering feasible alternatives.
Some are saying straws are not actually a large contributor to the plastic waste problem and believe that straw bans are motivated by a viral video from several years ago of a turtle with a straw stuck in its nose. They say the disability community is being guilted for needing straws to drink and blamed for pollution, rather than the blame being laid at the feet of larger polluters like corporations.
Shaming people who need accessibility, a la, "Do we need straws today or would we rather save the turtles?" and similar language is NOT something we are going to normalize!— Annie Segarra (@annieelainey) July 1, 2018
Seattle isn’t the only place to ban plastic straws; Miami Beach, Florida, and Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, both have bans already in place, and the U.K. has proposed a ban on all single-use plastics.
Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They have written for The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, The Lingerie Addict, and Bullet Points.