Consultation leaves Disabled people with the short straw
In May, the government has confirmed its decision to go ahead with the plastic straw ban despite the strong objections of Disabled people including members of Merton CIL.
We used the consultation to tell the government that banning the general use of plastic straws would add to the barriers Disabled people have to deal with but they're going ahead with it anyway," says Michael Turner, Merton CIL Policy and Strategy Manager.
"Merton CIL is a local organisation but we took up this national issue because so many of our members were concerned about the plans to ban plastic straws."
Plastic straws will only be available through pharmacies once the ban comes in from April 2020. Merton CIL members and others are concerned about this because restricting availability means having to make a specific trip to pharmacies rather than being able to buy them with other shopping. It also means that plastic straws are likely to become more expensive, pushing costs on to those who need them the most, and are among the poorest in society. Plastic straws, according to the proposals, will not be available on prescription. One of our specific suggestions to mitigate these costs was that plastic straws should become exempt from VAT as a piece of disability equipment, but that has not been taken on.
One small positive is that the government has said that Disabled people will not have to prove they need straws, they should just be able to request them from bars and restaurants who might have them behind the counter. Merton CIL remain concerned that staff or members of the public will inappropriately challenge Disabled people asking for or using straws, as we're hearing this is happening in other countries where straws have already been banned.
"We all care about the environment. The fact is that banning straws is only going to make a tiny contribution to improving the environment while having a disproportionate impact on Disabled people," continued Michael. "This is just an easy measure for the government to make it look like they are concerned about the environment, but they are not willing to show the leadership needed to tackle more difficult issues. The government should say that this ban is not worth the difficulties it will cause for Disabled people. Increased awareness of plastic pollution has already lead to a big reduction in the use of straws by people who don't need them so this ban really is unnecessary."
If you're not sure why many Disabled People need plastic straws and can't 'just drink from a glass' like some respondents to the national consultation suggested, check out the consultation response from our members: https://www.mertoncil.org.uk/news/save-our-straws-we-need-to-dr/
If you want to find out more about the government's plans, read about it here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/803259/plastics-consult-sum-resp.pdf