Scotland

Disability group wants pause on straw ban campaign

disabled boy drinking through a straw Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The alternatives to plastic straws are not always suitable

A disability group is calling for a pause in the campaign to ban plastic straws.

The One in Five group wants MSP Kate Forbes to halt her Final Straw campaign temporarily while concerns are addressed for disabled people.

It says paper, plant-based and metal alternatives are not always suitable and could even prove dangerous.

The group wants the campaign to have disability advice in place for companies looking to replace plastic.

Kate Forbes is leading the bid to cut down on plastic pollution.

She has previously said alternatives will need to be in place before plastic straws are entirely scrapped.

One in Five has written to the MSP saying: "We believe 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 asks in the letter that the "campaign pauses until it is in a position to offer the advice and support companies are looking for".

The organisation contacted 10 firms which had pledged to ban plastic straws and said 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.

'An afterthought'

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.

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.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption MSP Kate Forbes is leading the Final Straw campaign in a bid to reduce plastic pollution

"We ask that businesses consider the needs of disabled people before ditching plastic straws completely."

Ms Forbes said: "I recognise 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."

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