Straws, they’ve been a hot topic of conversation over the last couple of years and the conversation around them has resurfaced as the federal government plans on banning single-use plastics by the end of the year.
The announcement by the Canadian government saw final regulations banning single-use items like plastic shopping bags, cutlery, disposable takeout containers and straws. Businesses will not be able to sell them starting December 2023, and Canada will stop exporting them by the end of 2025.
For some people living with disabilities, it affects their everyday life. Their concern is what is going to happen when the federal government bans the manufacture and import of single-use plastics, including straws.
An Edmonton disabled activist says the move by the Trudeau government makes her feel unheard, as she relies on single-use plastic straws as a life-saving medical device.
“I have to use single-use plastic straws, morning to night,” Karli Drew told CityNews. “Not just to hydrate but also meal replacement drinks because I can’t always eat and swallow.”
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Drew says alternative straws are more problematic and less safe than single-use straws. “Some of them melt in certain temperatures, they contain allergens, there’s a risk of hurting ourselves,” she explained. “Because a lot of disabled people don’t have the coordination and can slip and easily hurt ourselves.”
Canada’s Health Minister claims Ottawa is aware that those who live with handicaps need plastic straws, which is why they will continue to be sold in packages of 20 on demand for those with accessibility or medical issues, and they will also be made available to those who need them in medical facilities.
But the concern for many is accessibility. A director with the Alberta Ability Network says she hopes to still see straws available at restaurants and elsewhere for people living with disabilities.
Both the director and activist say they hope the federal government consults disability groups as they move forward with their plans, but the disabled activist says she doesn’t believe banning single-use straws will have a big environmental impact.
“I want to save the environment,” said Drew. “But this only serves to hurt people and not really help.”
-With files from Sarah Chew