I need to drink using a plastic straw. It’s the way it is. Since the straw ban movement began last year I’ve grown very tired of having to justify this need. It’s not a choice. It’s necessary if I want to prevent developing aspiration pneumonia.
In 2018 a viral video of a sea turtle having a plastic straw pulled from its nostril went viral and the world had empathy for it. As we should. The human race alone is responsible for the destruction of the environment on the earth and nature is the innocent victim.
Ocean preservation warriors played it smart. They saw an opportunity from the viral sensation and ran with it. Despite the thousands of pictures of birds and animals impacted by the disasters the human race is creating daily, this one video grabbed the hearts of people globally and now anyone who uses a plastic straw is a social pariah.
The plastic bag ban came and went without as much drama and it seems despite alternatives on offer, it’s still perfectly socially acceptable (not to mention economically stimulating) to use plastic bags now that we have to pay for them rather than them being given out for free. If I’m walking home with my shopping in a plastic bag I paid for no one says a word, but use a plastic straw and shaming looks of disgust are cast my way. God forbid I should dare to ask for one.
Why do I care so much about using plastic straws? It’s quite simple to me yet majority of the population don’t get it. Disability. To be more specific it’s dysphagia. Difficulty swallowing. Drinking through a straw reduces the impact of this condition that can have a detrimental impact on my health. Yet that seems to be less important that the one turtle who by some freak turn of events got a straw lodged in its nostril.
We’ve never seen it before and realistically the chances of seeing it again in our lifetime are extremely small. Thousands of sea creatures are more likely to die being choked by plastics they consume than another turtle having a plastic straw in it’s nostril. Yet I’m a monster because I continue to use plastic straws despite doing my part to reduce my environmental impact in every other area I can. I admit when I first saw the video I shared it with a tweet saying I was never using plastic straws again. It’s not that I didn’t try. It just isn’t as simple for people like me as it is for everyone else.
Jane Milburn writes that “Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles each year and then discard about 23 kilograms* into landfill – and two-thirds of those discards are manmade synthetic/plastic fibres that may never breakdown.” So I’ve changed my attitude to buying clothing. I shop second hand more and try to choose textiles that have less environmental impact.
We’re told that fossil fuels have had the greatest impact on our environment the past century so I take public transport more and try to use less electricity in my home when it’s unnecessary.
Food waste in our landfill creates methane or greenhouse gases that are bad for the environment so I have become more conscious of my cooking and eating habits in an effort to reduce food waste in my home.
Being this socially conscious of the impact I personally have on the environment, naturally I sought to change the impact my straw use has.
I tried paper straws. They squash easily without returning back to their shape, making it difficult to suck fluids through. Lodged in plastic lids of cups with a cross cut into them they bend and break.
Despite their popularity as an alternative there’s a little known fact that they don’t actually biodegrade as quickly as claimed unless they land in a composting facility. It all felt rather pointless to me to suffer for something that isn’t the magical solution we’re led to believe it will be.
I tried metal straws. Having sensitivity issues with my teeth and tongue it made it a very unpleasant experience. The little rubber sleeves helped slightly. Then there was the hygiene issue.
So in the end I conceded defeat and decided the best I could do was like I do with fossil fuels and textiles and try reduction. I started reusing my own plastic straws. I’ve been rinsing them out in hot soapy water between drinks and reusing the same straw at home for months. That was until yesterday when I noticed by chance some marks on the end of the straw I’ve been using. Magnified on my camera it revealed something sinister and I’m beginning to wonder if this is responsible in anyway for the recurring unexplained illnesses I’ve been experiencing.
So now I’m thinking I may need to rethink my straw use again and there seems to be no safe space to talk about this any more. Not even amongst my disabled peers. Not all disabilities are alike and PWDs can be just as ableist as non disabled people. Some of my peers have braved the topic only to be shot down by fervent environmentalists with absolutely no sense of their own moral responsibility while they denigrate our disability using their fossil fuel powered electronics that outweigh the impact of plastic straws by about thirty-nine million nine hundred ninety-eight thousand tonnes of waste a year.
So brainwashed by celebrity causes they no longer allow me the right to justify why the number of disabled people using single use plastic straws has minimal impact in the grand scheme of things.
Why is it that it’s okay for me to pay for a plastic bag and that magically helps me save the sea turtles but being allowed to use plastic straws with out the sanctimonious harping just isn’t possible?
So I’m going to encourage those who NEED straws for fluid consumption, for whom alternatives don’t work, to continue to do what they need to do. To those screaming at me in condemnation… I’d get you a bandaid for your wounded morality but if you knew what impact their production and waste has on the environment, you’d probably die from exasperation.