Disability group calls for plastic straw ban campaign to be paused

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A disability campaign group has called on an MSP to pause her campaign to ban plastic straws.

The One in Five campaigners have raised concerns that many alternatives to single use plastic straws are not suitable for disabled people.

They have written to the SNP’s Kate Forbes urging her to temporarily halt the Final Straw campaign she is leading in a bid to cut down on plastic pollution.

Ms Forbes has previously said alternatives will need to be in place before plastic straw are entirely scrapped.

The letter states: “We believe that organisations are racing ahead to source alternative straws in response to understandable environmental concerns but in doing so have not fully considered the needs of some disabled people.”

It continues: “As you may be aware most paper and plant-based alternatives are not flexible or suitable for drinks over 40C, therefore increases the risks of choking.

“Metal straws can be dangerous for people with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s whereas reusable plastic straws present hygiene concerns to people with specific health conditions.”

One in Five ask in the letter that the “campaign pauses until it is in a position to offer the advice and support companies are looking for”.

The letter outlines the organisation contacted 10 firms who pledged to ban plastic straws and claims that initially none could confirm if their alternatives would suit disabled people.

Four of the companies have since said they will keep plastic straws for use by disabled people until suitable alternatives are sourced.

One in Five welcomed the inclusion of a disability adviser to the Scottish Government’s expert panel looking on single use plastics and said this would help ensure the disabled people are not disproportionately affected by the ban.

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.”

Ms Forbes 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.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to ending Scotland’s throwaway culture and are considering how we can reduce single use items like plastic straws.

“There are obviously a number of legislative, financial and accessibility issues to consider when it comes to banning plastic straws, however it is our intention that we will be in a position to confirm definitive plans over the coming months.

“As our Programme for Government sets out, we will be appointing an expert panel to advise on the use of charges and other measures to reduce use of single-use items and we will call on them for advice on plastic straws as one of their first priorities.

“We will also appoint a disability adviser to the panel to provide advice and ensure that we do not inadvertently disadvantage groups and that appropriate alternatives are in place.”

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