The environmental push to remove plastic straws is hurting the disabled community

Around the world there is an increasing surge to remove plastic from daily used items in a bid to help the environment, but at what cost? The impact of banning straws, and other plastic products is having a significant effect on people living with a disability.

Phased Out

Recently, coffee giant Starbucks became another company to announce it will be phasing out the removal of plastic straws in its stores by 2020. On one hand, the removal of plastic will be extremely beneficial to the environment and future generations. On the other hand, it’s clearly blocking the independence of many disabled people and making their daily tasks harder than necessary.

Similarly, furniture retailer IKEA announced they would stop selling single-use plastic straws in its UK and Ireland stores by October of this year. Like Starbucks, IKEA has a target of removing all single-use plastic in its global product range by 2020.

Other UK organisations following suit include Waitrose, McDonalds and Burger King.


The use of plastic straws is a necessity amongst disabled people; although alternatives are available they do not serve the same purpose as plastic straws.

Paper straws can become soggy thus harder to use, metal straws can cause injuries if not used properly and are not adjustable, portable cups are not inclusive for those with mobility issues unable to lift objects.

Plastic straws are essential for eating and drinking for many disabled people.


On our shores, IKEA will apply its straw ban to its entire online range and 20 stores across the UK and Ireland. The store is in turn using plastic waste to create water bottles and storage crates, even introducing the first kitchen incorporating 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.

It all sounds fantastic and wonderful for the environment, but the ban is detrimental to the 20% of people worldwide living with a disability. Although straw alternatives are in place it may not support many people with physical, sensory or learning disabilities.

Like anything, there is a comprise that can be met within time.

This is an ongoing discussion which we will be following closely. Follow the updates over on our Twitter here.

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