By Lucia Mejia Cardenas, age 10
On average, people in the United States dispose of 500 million plastic straws each day. Plastic straws and plastic utensils can’t be recycled. The biggest obstacle to recycling plastic straws is their size: they slip through sorting machines and often end up in the landfill. The plastic makes its way to the ocean and sea creatures eat it. The plastic lowers their lifespan by fifty percent.
Earlier this summer, Seattle became the first major U.S city to ban plastic straws and utensils. The ban imposes a fine of up to $250 on any restaurant that uses plastic utensils or straws. As a substitute for the plastic, some businesses have switched to compostable or biodegradable straws. In September, California passed the first statewide ban on plastic straws.
Not everyone is in support of the ban. People with certain disabilities cannot drink without a straw. Paper and biodegradable straws get soggy and don’t bend as easily, and as a result aren’t very friendly to those with special needs. Alice Wong, founder, and director of the Disability Visibility Project has a neuromuscular disability and relies on straws to eat and drink. “It’s something most people don’t notice, but for a disabled person, straws are an accessibility tool,” she writes.
Although the ban in Seattle includes an exemption for people with disabilities, not all restaurants have kept straws in stock. Writer S.E. Smith notes, “Disabled people need to be included in the conversation about reducing plastic waste—our needs matter just as much as trees and sea turtles.”