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Plastic straws ban prompts concerns for disabled people

Plastic straws ban prompts concerns for disabled people
6th October 2020 Ian Streets

A ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds has come into force in England but the government is promising exemptions for people with disabilities or medical conditions.
The measure was originally due to be introduced in April but was brought forward and took effect at the beginning of this month, making it illegal for businesses to sell or supply the items.
In announcing the ban the government said it is estimated people in England use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers, and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds every year.
Environment Secretary George Eustice focused on the environmental benefits which will result from the ban and did not go into detail about exemptions.
However he added: “While making this important step to help the environment, disabled people and those with medical conditions will also be protected, and will be able to request a plastic straw when visiting a pub or restaurant and purchase them from pharmacies.”
According to the BBC the Welsh government has said it is also considering a similar ban on plastics.
Sandie Burns, CEO of Disability Peterborough, said: “Whilst some disabled people think the ban on single use plastic straws is a good idea, others think that having to request ‘special assistance’ is demoralising and risks a refusal if the establishment is not aware of the rules and can cause embarrassment.
“Other disabled people make their own adjustments by taking alternative straws with them when they are out and about. The counter argument to this is, ‘why would a disabled customer have to bring something in order to drink while non-disabled people have the convenience and ability to use what is provided for free?’
“Steel and glass straws are now widely available but not an ideal swap for everybody as people with muscle spasms could end up damaging teeth or cutting their mouths. Silicone straws are a good alternative and are fully reusable: these can be purchased for around £10 for 6 straws. Biodegradable Bendy Straws are another good alternative and are made from oxo-biodegradable material – at around £40 for 10,000 work out quite cost effective.
“Whilst the Equality Laws in this country make it clear that service providers must make reasonable adjustment for disabled people, it is clear that is often disabled people themselves who have to adjust.”

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