Straw Bans Revisited

I first wrote about the proposed plastic straw bans (and why I’m against them) almost exactly one year ago (read that post here). They may not be in the news as much as they were a year ago, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not happening. I actually think it’s even worse – they make the news less, but they’re remarkably persistent and keep popping up places that I wouldn’t expect them to.

And it’s not only all-out bans – it’s shifts in what kinds of straws a restaurant or cafe will stock, by choice. I ordered a cappuccino out the other day, and unknowingly picked up a compostable straw, which was the only kind they had. It melted the SECOND it hit the hot coffee. It was almost funny how quickly it went from a straw to a wiggly blob. The compostable straw was completely unusable in a hot drink. And based on many life experiences, I can say that a paper straw would have been only marginally better.

So why not use a reusable straw? Carry a silicone or metal or glass one around for me to use whenever I want? It really all comes down to independence.

When you have a disability, small gains of independence are hard-won. I need help for so many parts of my day-to-day life; there are just a lot of things that I can’t physically do alone. So I really treasure the moments that I do get to be by myself, and the things that I can do without assistance. And right now, one of those things that I really look forward to is going to Starbucks to get my cappuccino on my own. Mobile ordering make things even easier for me – I can place an order for the drink I want, it’ll come with the right amount of milk/sugar that I specified (and I don’t need to ask for help with that while I’m there), I pick up a straw so that I can actually consume my drink, and I leave. Simple, right? It’s basically the same process for everyone.

Once Starbucks takes away those plastic straws, though, things get a lot more complicated. I order my drink, just like above, it’s prepared, and I go to pick it up. But once I get my cappuccino, how do I drink it? Let’s even assume that I am carrying around a reusable silicone straw, and that I’m able to get it out of my bag on my own. First, this is already a bit assumption – it’s something that I need to make sure is always in a specific, reachable spot, because if I forget, or if it slips out of reach, I physically cannot drink my coffee. And then what do I do when I finish my cappuccino? Able-bodied people can just go into the bathroom, rinse it off, and move on with their day. It’s not that easy for me, though. I can’t get into the bathroom, so I’d have to ask someone to open the door for me, and then once I’m in there, I can’t reach the sink or soap dispenser. And while I’m generally pretty comfortable asking for help, asking a stranger to clean my straw is a bridge too far for me. So I’m stuck with a dirty, sticky straw that I have to put somewhere until I’m home. And because I’m not only a once-per-day Starbucks customer, I have to repeat this whole process over again later with another reusable straw.

Maybe this sounds too detailed for you – like I’m blowing it out or proportion and overthinking it. But this is the level of detail that I have to approach every single part of my day with. And that’s why I look forward to the things that I can do on my own, without having to deal with my own complicated logistics plus involving someone else for help. And it’s more than just the planning – it’s knowing that going for a coffee is something that I can do on my own. Banning plastic straws (or voluntarily eliminating them) has so many unintended consequences that people without disabilities just don’t have to think about. If you want to stop using plastic straws, by all means, please do that! But don’t force me to give up my independence while you’re at it.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I definitely don't think you're blowing anything out of proportion! Thank you for writing this and providing an important perspective on this issue.

Leave a Reply