Just a thought… The world changes when we change our perspective. [Author Unknown]
One of things I love about this modern age in which we live (okay, and it’s also one of the things I hate) is the way in which ideas can be exchanged so easily. Yes, there are plenty of people who will post absolute garbage disguised as truth (some of them bots, of course) but sometimes, if your mind is open instead of your mouth, you can learn something, too. That was the case with me this past week.
On Friday, World Oceans Day, I tweeted my excitement over the news that A & W is getting rid of plastic straws by the end of the year. And I added, “You’re up, McDonalds.” The details of this Canadian company’s decision – the first in North America – include word that guests will be offered paper straws which can last up to three hours in a drink, then biodegrade in three to six months. It’s estimated the move will keep 82 million plastic straws out of landfills – and possibly oceans – annually.
What’s not to love about that, right? Well, there are some significant points to be made about what’s wrong with it. I couldn’t have imagined any, but then, I got this email from the only person who took issue with my excitement over what I thought was a surefire positive move.
Hi, Erin —
I just saw your tweet in favour of A&W ditching their plastic straws and wanted to offer an alternative POV: disabled folks often need straws. My daughter, for example, has limited mobility as well as pain in her hands so we use straws at home — when they’re just used for water, we try to get at least one full day of use per straw which doesn’t minimize the eco-blight but it’s something. To balance it, I don’t use straws when I go out. Not an ideal bendy-straw offset program but again, it’s something.
I’m probably not going to be the first person to flag this for you — and David Onley and Andre Picard (the Globe‘s health columnist) have posted about this on Twitter recently, too. And I hate words like “ableist” because our culture is getting too stratified and judge-y as it is.
When you can’t lift a cup or glass, a straw gives you dignity as well as a drink. The notion of a straw ban needs to be thought through much better AND in consultation with the broad range of folks who actually need them.
Accessibility ain’t just about ramps! And telling people to buy stainless steel or bamboo or reusable straws made from other materials ignores the fact that having control of the bendy aspect is important to people who physically require straws to drink. There’s also the assumption that it is no big deal to a) transport a used straw home without messing up their other belongings; b) wash it effectively; c) pack it each time they go out; and d) manage the cost of reusables.
If people really cared about getting rid of plastics that no one needs, the first port of call should be their Keurigs and other plastic pod coffee makers. People need plastics to make instant coffee now? That guy from The Graduate must be over the moon.
Thanks for reading. Sorry if it got ranty. 🙂
Ms B gave me a lot to think about here. I had read some comments in response to those who want straws, that said, “just bring a stainless steel one with you.” Those are just a little flippant when I read the points that B brings up.
I’ll be watching more closely now to see where this straw discussion goes. While I’m 100% in favour of cutting back our use of plastics where we can (and keeping them out of landfills as well as oceans and the bodies of their inhabitants) I hope there will be thought given to those who feel that their removal becomes just another barrier.
Thank you so much for the perspective, B. And to you for coming by. Tomorrow…as promised, dear ol’ Dad.