After being in the news a lot last year, the debate over plastic straws has yet to be settled.
While reducing plastic waste helps the environment — which is important to help protect the planet — there is an argument against banning plastic straws which has not gotten as much publicity. For people with certain physical disabilities, this type of straw is vital.
Iowa City resident Daniel Canfield said he needs straws to drink properly.
“I’m visually impaired. I only have one [fully functional] hand,” Canfield said. “Sometimes, it is hard for me to lift things. I use plastic straws when I’m at restaurants.”
Canfield said the straw is needed because otherwise, it would be too difficult to pick up and easily drink from a heavy glass.
There are others with physical disabilities who need straws to drink at restaurants. Some people can’t pick up the glass because neither of their hands function fully. Others might not be able to pick up and hold a glass due to limited motor coordination.
I could go on about what conditions make a plastic straw necessary when drinking. Banning them would limit the quality of experience someone with a disability has at restaurants and possibly make the person not able to drink.
A possible solution is metal straws. This would reduce plastic to help the environment but also make it so there are straws for people who need them because of a disability. Is that really the right solution?
I agree that metal straws would be harder to drink out of than plastic ones, as metal is harder than plastic. Therefore, plastic ones could potentially be easier to pick up for people with certain disabilities.
If someone with a motor-affecting disability is at a restaurant by themselves, they might need to place it in the drink. This would be easier to do with a softer material, such as plastic.
I understand we have to reduce plastic in order to help the environment, but we should not take away necessary tools for people with disabilities while doing so.
There is a solution which is both helpful for the environment and people with disabilities. We can reduce plastic in other ways, such as using paper grocery bags. This would reduce plastic without inconveniencing people with disabilities.
Businesses can also use reusable straws. That way, they will still have the ones certain customers may need but will also help the environment through reducing and reusing.
The ban on plastic straws is something that affects people with disabilities, and their voices deserve to be heard in this debate.
Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.