The Last Straw: Analyzing the Ban

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     Environmental fanatics and many citizens initially seemed to be on board with the announcement of the straw ban within various corporations like Starbucks and American Airlines, as well as big cities like New York and Seattle. From the surface, the ban seems to address the major damage that plastic waste does to the ocean in a seemingly minute fashion. Many of us use straws as an accessory, not as the outfit, so alternative methods of drinking won’t have many unwarranted effects. We can just as easily sip our morning joe from the cup, as from a straw.

     However, the movement has elicited push back from disability rights activists and organizations that have relied on straws for drinking in the past. The proposed bans have caused waves of outrage across the country. Persons with certain disabilities are often unable to drink without a straw and banning them could unintentionally bar said persons from drinking at Starbucks and even within certain cities that intend to phase out straws entirely.

     While critics and supporters have tried addressing the actual environmental impacts of the straw ban, or lack thereof, ultimately, until appropriate time has passed, it might be difficult to gauge the real effects. Subsequently, whether banning plastic straws will actually help the environment or not, will not be addressed here. However, for readers interested in the two sides of the argument, this article will hopefully serve as informative.

      The primary argument against the straw ban is that individuals with certain disabilities cannot sip straight from a cup, and straws provide a safe, easy method of eating or drinking. So, to implement a ban on such a resource is understandably frustrating, explained an analyst to TIME magazine. Additionally, another source of distaste is that the conversation happened without “input of their daily life experience,” explained the analyst. Fair. Each decision inherently effects some people negatively and it’s important to take that into account, as well as keep the discussion open to all persons impacted.

     However, considering negative impacts are inevitable, it is important to keep that in mind when considering the long term effects of a major decision. If, as environmentalists claim, damage that straws do to marine life is so detrimental, then perhaps, as many disabled rights activists have been suggesting, the conversation should not be whether or not to ban straws, but how to ban them.

      For example, Starbucks will now offer straws specifically for frappuccinos as well as upon request for other drinks, but the available straws will be made of metal, which can then be reused, or biodegradable paper. Sounds optimal, right? However, TIME magazine explained that these alternatives are not entirely suitable for persons with disabilities. Metal straws don’t offer flexibility or bending for mobility impaired individuals and they can also prove hazardous for people with certain conditions. Biodegradable paper straws may solve those issues but that material disintegrates and can get soggy quicker than plastic straws.

     Of course, no alternative will be completely foolproof and companies like American Airlines take that into consideration. The airline plans to keep plastic straws available for customers who need them. Additionally, Seattle, the first major city to take the leap into the no plastic straws movement included a waiver in their ban that allows restaurants to keep plastic straws on-hand for people who may need to use one. Starbucks also issued a statement that they will “continue to offer straws to customers who need or request them in our stores.”

     Whether plastic straws have been banned in some places or are still under review in others, it is still too soon to foresee the repercussions of the straw ban. Garnering from the information published, plastic straws will not be eliminated entirely, as businesses will still work to cater towards individuals who cannot sip with a straw alternative. The ban is an important wake up call to care for marine life and a positive change for companies to make as they move towards a more green-friendly atmosphere. However, another equally important aspect is working to ensure we are not achieving our goals at the expense of basic, human rights.


Sources

Gibbens, Sarah. “How Do Plastic Straw Bans Work?” National Geographic, 23 July 2018,  www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/07/news-how-plastic-straw-bans-work/.

Kukalka, Alexandra. “Local coffee shops, restaurants consider eco-friendly alternatives to straws.” Chicago Tribune, 25 July 2018, www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/glenview/news/ct-nbs-business-straw-use-tl-0726-story/.

Martinez, Gina. “Disability Advocates Speak Out Against Plastic Straw Ban.” Time, Time, 12 July 2018, time.com/5335955/plastic-straws-disabled/.

Martinez, Gina. “Starbucks Ditches Plastic Straws: 3 Popular Alternatives.” Time, Time, 9 July 2018, time.com/5333451/starbucks-plastic-straw-alternative/.