Disabled People Exempt From Plastic Straw Ban – Some Still Fear 'Huge Inconvenience'

Disabled People Exempt From Plastic Straw Ban – But Some Still Fear ‘Huge Inconvenience’

Plastic straws are set to be banned in England from April 2020 for everyone except those who need them for medical reasons or who have a disability. 

Reactions to the news, announced by environment secretary Michael Gove yesterday (May 22), have been mixed – some applauding to move and others fearing it could “be a huge inconvenience”.

The change, intended to tackle plastic pollution, means that food and drink outlets will no longer be able to automatically display these items or hand them out to the public.

It includes an exemption for those who need to use plastic straws for medical reasons or because they have a disability.

They will be able to make a special request in bars and restaurants or purchase them from registered pharmacies.

Plastic-stemmed cotton buds and coffee stirrers are also included in the ban.

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Lauren West, of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “Plastic straws are sometimes the only type of straw that work for disabled people due to their flexibility and ability to be used in hot and cold drinks.

“While we appreciate the need to reduce the use of plastics, traditional single-use straws are essential for some disabled people.

We would encourage Defra to continue consulting disabled people and groups like Trailblazers to ensure we are not disadvantaged or targeted and stigmatised for using single-use plastics.

Lauren West, Trailblazer Manager at Muscular Dystrophy UK

“If disabled people cannot access plastic straws when out it could put their health at risk as they may not be able to drink and could become dehydrated.

“We’re pleased the Government has recognised this in its proposals put forward [yesterday].

“We would encourage Defra to continue consulting disabled people and groups like Trailblazers to ensure we are not disadvantaged or targeted and stigmatised for using single-use plastics.”

But environmentally-minded east London filmmaker Isaac Harvey fears the ban on plastic straws may still make life more difficult.

“I think it is awful really that it has come to this,” the 23-year-old told RightsInfo. “It is very restricting.”

Where do you draw the line in making things accessible versus the environment?

Isaac Harvey, Filmmaker

Isaac has limb/pelvic hypoplasia syndrome, which means he has no arms, a weak pelvis and does most things with his feet.

“I think it is going to be a huge inconvenience,” he added. “Not everyone is able to go to the pharmacy.”

He told RightsInfo that he does not mind approaching restaurant staff to ask them for straws but added that it might cause problems for others he knows “depending on the individual”.

He said he understood the importance of cutting down on single-use plastics but added “where do you draw the line in making things accessible versus the environment?”

Last month, the filmmaker edited and produce a short film promoting a movement calling on churches to stop investing in fossil fuels.

Mr Gove said: “Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment.

“These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life.”

Main Image: Isaac Harvey / Kevin Snyman.

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About the Author

Aaron Walawalkar

News and Digital Editor
Aaron is an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist focussing on human rights. His extensive reporting on rough sleeping in east London has been nominated for multiple awards. He has worked for regional and national newspapers and produced illustrations, infographics and videos for humanitarian organisation RedR UK. View all posts by Aaron Walawalkar.
Disabled People Exempt From Plastic Straw Ban – But Some Still Fear ‘Huge Inconvenience’
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