Is banning plastic straws ableist???

I got myself in a little bit of trouble with my first blog post about plastic straws.  Proper naughty corner time.

I’d watched that video of the turtle with the straw up it’s nose and it’s fair to say I was less subtle than perhaps I could have been.  With that said, even after the torrent of “you’re ableist” abuse that I was surprised to receive, I stood by my comments – single use plastic straws do make me mad and I do judge people who chose to use them.  There, I’m a rubbish human.

I wasn’t the first to speak out about plastic straws and I certainly haven’t been the last.  Pubs , cafes and restaurants (WetherspoonsWagamama & Pizza Express to name a few) are dropping plastic straws at speed, Dame Vivien Westwood has backed the Plastic Planet’s campaign to ditch the straw and the Scottish government has promised to ban the production and sale of plastic straws completely by the end of 2019.  It’s this last one which provoked a response I’d seen before but this time, the criticism made me question myself.

The ableism accusations I received all came from able bodied people who were unswerving despite some fairly strong arguments in return from those who do live with disabilities.  The Scottish Government however have been accused of ableism from someone in a position to understand what it truly means and what it is to live with a disability.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is a Welsh Paralympian, who has said that some disabled people could be seriously impacted if disposable plastic straws are banned – and she’s not the only one.  There is a growing voice of concern over this.  The argument is that glass straws aren’t safe (sounds fair) reusable straws may present hygiene problems (hmm, ok, I guess they’re harder to wash but not impossible – I’ll bow to this one though), and that metal and paper straws are unsuitable for hot drinks.  The metal bit I get – it gets hot, the paper bit due I assume to them dissolving.

I wasn’t sure what would be the best solution and was trying to think of new exciting alternatives (when I say exciting, just, well, they’re straws, I guess exciting is a stretch).

Then I gave up and went to the pub where a nice bar tender dropped a paper straw into my drink.  At the end of the night I realised that that one paper straw had been used in all three drinks (I have kids, three drinks is a big night for me) but it still looked, felt and worked, exactly like it did at the start.  Well, I’m teaching my kids to never take things on face value and to always check for yourself so that little straw came home with me.

The next morning, I stuck that straw into my coffee to see what happens – nothing happened.  In fact, I drank the whole drink, quite slowly because as already mentioned – three kids – so not much time to drink a coffee all in one go and still the straw did not degrade.  It hadn’t gone soggy, nothing came away it, it didn’t flavour the coffee (ok, so a slight hint of vodka lemonade but I’m guessing that’s due to the dubious hygiene aspects of my experiment rather than the straw itself).  Hm, coffee cups do this and they have plastic in – so I set the straw on fire, and it burnt, like paper, just paper.  Look, I even took a pic…..

So, my point is, paper straws do work in hot drinks.  What else am I missing here?  Could it be that the argument against a plastic straw ban on the basis that there are no alternatives for those with relevant disabilities is also based on assumptions?  That’s certainly how it seems to me and until someone can prove me wrong, I’m keeping my “ban the straw” stance.

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