How banning plastic straws could impact people with disabilities

The Last Straw : Planet Money

People with disabilities are pushing back against plastic straw bans. Here’s why

This week, Starbucks announced it'd be doing away with plastic straws by 2020. A new recyclable lid will replace straws and become standard for most of Starbucks' iced drinks.

In a statement, Starbucks said customers are still able to get straws, made from alternative materials, and that the company will work with the disabled community to ensure their needs are met going forward. It's made from paper and compostable plastic. Starbucks claims its use of cold-cup lids worldwide will keep over one billion straws from polluting the environment every year.

The bans are meant to be a proactive step in easing the burden that plastic waste has on our environment. San Francisco has banned polystyrene, including packaging peanuts and Styrofoam cups.

The decision falls in line with the city's plastic straw ban, which went into effect on June 1. Studies show that the United States alone uses 500 million straws every day.

Sourcing trends predicted this shift would soon expand to other sizeable corporations weeks before official announcements started surfacing.

"If they ban disposable plastic straws, they should have alternatives like cardboard or biodegradable straws."

Proposed bans on plastic straws have gained momentum across the country.

Although it is hard to identify exactly how much plastic is in the ocean, due to micro-particles and the amount that has sunk to the bottom, the Ocean Conservancy estimates that eight million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year - adding to the estimated 150 million metric tons now circulating our oceans. But for many individuals and activist organizations, focusing on this issue - one that is easier for everyday consumers to rally behind and can serve as a catalyst for exploring the larger, more overarching environmental issues - may prove a valuable starting point. And with a corporate giant like Starbucks taking steps to reduce their plastic waste, other companies may be more inclined to follow suit.

After enacting a plastic straw and utensil ban, Seattle allowed businesses to keep bendable plastic straws on-site for customers who need them due to a medical or physical condition.

Latest News