Disability group calls for pause on campaign to eradicate plastic straws

Written by Jenni Davidson on 16 February 2018 in News

One in Five has pointed out that alternatives to single-use plastic straws may not be suitable for people with disabilities

MSPs Kate Forbes and Kezia Dugdale drinking with straws - Image credit: Scottish Parliament

A disability rights organisation is calling for a pause to the campaign to get rid of plastic straws in Scotland.

One in Five has written to SNP MSP Kate Forbes asking that the 'Final Straw' campaign be stopped until campaigners are able to offer advice on suitable alternatives to single-use plastic straws.

A number of companies have already committed to stop using single-use plastic straws, but One in Five highlights that some people with disabilities need to use a straw and that current alternatives are not suitable for everyone.

The organisation points out that most paper and plant-based straws are not flexible and they cannot be used for drinks over 40C.

Metal straws can be dangerous for people with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, while reusable plastic straws could present hygiene issues for people with certain health conditions.

One in Five has contacted a number of companies, including Starbucks, TGI Fridays, Caffe Nero, CalMac, Scotrail and the Scottish Parliament, and most have committed to keeping plastic straws available for disabled customers.

One in Five founder Jamie Szymkowiak said: "Businesses are understandably responding to environmental concerns, but in reacting so quickly the needs of their disabled customers risks becoming an afterthought.

“We ask that businesses consider the needs of disabled people before ditching plastic straws completely."

The disability rights group has also welcomed Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham’s decision to have a disability adviser on the expert panel looking at reducing the use of single-use items.

One in Five's Pam Duncan-Glancy said: "Protecting the environment is essential if we are to create the world we want for future generations.

“Action to do this is necessary. However, as with all policy decisions, we must consider the impact of them on different groups, including disabled people.

“We welcome Roseanna Cunningham's decision to appoint a disability adviser to the government's expert panel and believe that this will go some way to ensuring the actions taken do not disproportionately affect disabled people."

Kate Forbes, who has led the campaign to reduce plastic straw use, has said that alternatives for disabled people need to be available.

She said: “I recognise that there are some people who need to use a straw and indeed I have a family member with a disability and therefore I understand the concerns of One in Five on a first-hand basis.

“No change to the law or business practices should put greater burdens on people with disabilities or those who need to use a straw.

"That’s why I have offered to meet with representatives of One in Five again today.

“As recently as last week in the Scottish Parliament, I made clear that alternatives to plastic straws must be readily and easily available.

“Last week, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform announced she is to appoint a disability adviser so that any proposals to reduce single use plastics like plastic straws will not have an adverse impact on disabled people.

“I completely agree that no change should put greater burdens on people with disabilities or those who need to use straws, and I hope One in Five will accept my invitation to discuss this in further detail.”

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