Businesses are responding to high-profile environmental campaigns to stop using plastic straws without considering the needs of disabled people, disability rights activists have warned.
The Scottish user-led political campaign group One in Five fears that “knee-jerk” promises to ditch single-use plastic before sourcing accessible alternatives risk isolating disabled customers and damaging their ability to live independently.
One in Five’s Pam Duncan-Glancy and Jamie Szymkowiak have written to the SNP MSP Kate Forbes, asking her to pause her Final Straw campaign – which calls for a crackdown on single-use plastic straws – until it can provide suitable advice to the organisations it is targeting.
One in Five has pointed out that most paper and plant-based straws are not flexible or suitable for hot drinks, and therefore increase the risk of choking when the straw becomes soggy or starts to disintegrate.
And they say that metal straws can be dangerous for people with neurological conditions, while reusable plastic straws cause hygiene concerns for people with certain health conditions.
One in Five has contacted 10 organisations known to have committed to phasing out the use of plastic straws – including sports venues, cinema and restaurant chains and transport providers – and none of them were able to say whether their alternative straw would be suitable for disabled customers.
Four of those organisations have since committed to keeping some plastic straws available until they can source a suitable, accessible alternative.
Szymkowiak told DNS: “Businesses are understandably reacting to the environmental concerns around single-use plastics – and we share those concerns.