National Post (Latest Edition)

Straw and order

- Laura Brehaut

The worldwide movement to ban single-use plastics is picking up momentum as a growing number of bars and restaurant­s have pledged to #StopSuckin­g plastic straws. In November 2019, Vancouver will become the first Canadian city to prohibit the disposable drinking implement. Meanwhile, cities such as Delhi, India and Seattle, Wash. have already committed and New York

City is considerin­g it, too.

British Prime

Minister Theresa May has vowed to eliminate plastic waste by 2042 and is encouragin­g other Commonweal­th nations to join suit. As CNN reports, the European Union recently put forward a plan that would eradicate 10 single-use plastic products including straws, stir sticks and cutlery. The singleuse plastic items included in the proposed ban currently comprise 70 per cent of the garbage polluting EU waters and beaches.

And Europe is not alone: the world’s oceans are littered with plastic, which poses a great threat to marine life. Recent research by Dutch non-profit Ocean Cleanup found that roughly 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic are adrift in a single expanse of the Pacific Ocean alone. At three times the size of continenta­l France, the researcher­s have dubbed the area the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

While an outright ban on singleuse plastics is likely to have a positive effect on the environmen­t, advocates argue that it would be detrimenta­l to people with disabiliti­es, many of which consider plastic straws essential to leading an independen­t life.

“I’m hoping a sensible compromise could be implemente­d where the default is to not provide straws,” Jane Dyson, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C., told Star Metro, “but if a person with disability ask for straws, they could be provided with one.” For people with disabiliti­es, having to supply their own straws is both inconvenie­nt and prohibitiv­ely expensive, reports. “As we move to ridding our oceans, beaches and parks of unnecessar­y single-use plastics, disabled people shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat by large corporatio­ns,” Jamie Szymkowiak, co-founder of Scottish advocacy group One in Five, wrote in a blog post for Greenpeace.

Alternativ­es to plastic straws – bamboo, compostabl­e, glass, paper or metal – “are not always suitable and could even prove dangerous,” the BBC reports. In the U.K., advocates including One in Five are pushing for viable alternativ­es to be in place before plastic straws are outlawed.

“The anti-plastic straw debate has enraged me because it has been one-sided. No-one has consulted disabled people,” Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds told the BBC.

“A significan­t number of us rely on the humble plastic straw to be able to drink a glass of water, wine or a cup of coffee. It’s a fundamenta­l human right to be able to have a drink and to be able to drink it as and when you need to drink it, and to do it independen­tly.”

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