Recently I ran across an article on NPR about super trendy “Plastic Straw Ban.”
If you aren’t familiar with the ban, it all centers around a video that is on YouTube.
The video made by a marine biologist, Christine Figgener, was uploaded in 2015.
The video has been viewed more than 31 million times, and it has prompted a tidal wave of companies and cities banning the use of plastic straws.
I had no idea there were bans, and that companies were trying to make it more difficult to use plastic straws because my family doesn’t get out much.
Most of our life is spent shuffling my son from one doctor appointment to the next.
When we travel, we always have to bring a specific cup and specific straws for him to drink.
My son can’t drink from a cup without a straw.
He’s one of many individuals with disabilities that either can’t hold a cup or don’t have the oral motor coordination to drink without a straw. There are other reasons people need straws to drink, but these are the most common.
We were elated when he mastered the use of straw at age three.
Learning to drink by straw was a significant milestone he hit because we were finally able to toss out the sippy cups.
He was able to have more independence with drinking, and he was able to use less energy by using the straw.
Since then he’s never been able to drink from an open cup. However, he is a pro at using straws.
We’ve tried numerous types of straws that are paper, metal, silicone, and plastic.
Metal straws are stiff, and they change temperatures depending on what you are drinking. Due to my son’s senstivity to temperature, and his coordination issues we learned early on metal straws were not practical.
Then I purchased a cup with a reuseable silicone straw. I thought it would be a more eco-friendly option than disposable plastic straws.
Unfortunately, he was unable to properly grip the straw with his mouth and tongue. He lacked the coordination and strength to use the straw, and the cup became mine.
Eventually we found a system that worked for him.
The cups we use are plastic, have a lid, and a hole for a straw.
We have to buy the same multi-color straws from Walmart or he will pitch a fit. He has specific preferences in what he likes in a straw. A nuance that I find kind of endearing.
This works for our family, and we carry them with us where ever we go.
Instead, now it’s become harder for us to find straws when we go out.
My son doesn’t eat by mouth.
However, he still loves to go out to eat.
While my husband and I eat our dinners, he quietly sits with his Ipad and sips on his juice with his straw.
When I read that more and more places are starting to ban plastic straws, I began to get concerned for people like my son.
Going out and ordering drinks with straws will become more challenging the wider these bans stretch.
Then I started to get worried that Walmart might stop selling the brand of straws we buy. In a moment of panic I thought about ordering over 100 boxes of straws to ensure we didn’t run out.
Straws may be a convenience for many of us, but there are millions of people in the world that rely on straws for drinking.
While I don’t negate the tragedy of a sea turtle having a straw up his nose, I also can’t help but get angry at the world for the knee-jerk reaction we have to banning items without proper thought of why these items exist.
As a mother, it made me realize that the masses are more concerned about sea animals than the inclusion of people with disabilities.
Sure, straws when not properly disposed of are a hazard.
There is far too much litter floating in our oceans.
I am not disputing any of that information.
However, how about instead of banning straws all together we become more responsible users of straws.
If you don’t need to use a straw, don’t take a straw.
When you use a straw, throw it away when you are done.
Don’t dump your empty cups and straws on the ground.
We can all reduce our use of straws if we can drink without one. Drink out of the cup directly instead of grabbing for a straw.
However, for the people that don’t have the luxury, banning straws outright reminds them they are invisible.
When you have a disability or raise a child with a disability, you learn pretty quickly how invisible you are to the world.
When we as a society value the safety of a turtle over the inclusion of people with disabilities, we have our priorities wrong.
What can we do?
- We stop banning plastic straws.
- We need to become more responsible consumers and users of straws
Why is this Important?
My son and millions like him depend on straws for drinking.
People with disabilities live in a world world that isn’t accessible, and taking away straws is cruel.
My heart is breaking thinking about how many people are hurt by plastic straw bans.
My only wish is that more people understood how these bans make life less accessible for people with disabilities.
Let’s rethink banning straws.
Consider the millions that need straws to drink.
Remember that while sea animals are valuable to our eco-system, we can make responsible choices in using straws.
Banning straws is not necessary.