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The global move to ban single use plastic straws is reaching a fever pitch.
The British government has announced plans to ban the sale of plastic straws and is calling on the Australian government to do the same. Scotland has vowed a total ban by 2019 and Taiwan by 2030. Numerous cities across the U.S., including Seattle, Oakland, Malibu, and Miami Beach, have already banned single-use plastic straws. Celebrity campaigns to #stopsucking and viral videos of marine life with straws in their nostrils have motivated millions of people into action. And on the corporate side Starbucks and McDonalds are leading the charge.
But what’s the science behind the push for a ban? A number often thrown around is 500 million. That’s allegedly the number of straws used every single day in the US that are being dumped into our oceans. Activists also say due to their size and shape, straws are often mistaken for food by ocean wildlife and cause suffocation and death. Straws are often referred to as the poster child for needless single use plastic.
But the ban on plastic straws may potentially have a huge impact on the disability community, adversely affecting health and quality of life of many. Some need straws to drink because they are unable to lift a cup to their mouths, or to regulate the amount of liquid being ingested. Environmentally friendly alternatives are not a universal fix. There are allergy concerns with plant plastics, the risk of breaking glass straws with facial tics, or paper straws that may disintegrate with warm liquids. The disability community is fighting back on the total ban with #ableismsucks.
According to scientists at National Geographic - Microplastics make up 94 percent of an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the great garbage patch. But that only amounts to eight percent of the total tonnage, most of it is abandoned fishing gear.
We’ll take a look at the impact of the #strawban. Why did this movement catch on so quickly, and who is most affected by it?
On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Christine Figgener @ChrisFiggener
Marine Conservation Biologist
Shilpi Chhotray @ShilpiChhotray
Senior Communications Officer, Break Free from Plastic
Lawrence Carter-Long @LCarterLong
Director of Communications, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Dune Ives @duneives
Executive Director, Lonely Whale
The last straw - NPR
Starbucks’ elimination of plastic straws is bad for disabled people - Teen Vogue
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.