Plastic straw ban disadvantages disabled people, says Paralympian

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Media caption,

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson says plastic straws allow many disabled people to drink independently

Businesses ditching plastic drinking straws for eco-friendly alternatives is having unforeseen consequences for disabled people, a Welsh Paralympian has said.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said plastic straws meant many disabled people could drink independently.

She said paper or glass alternatives were not always suitable or safe.

A growing number of businesses have stopped using plastic straws in a bid to reduce single-use plastic waste.

Last month, the UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove suggested plastic straws could be banned.

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Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds, who was born without limbs, says she has a right to be able to drink independently

Baroness Grey-Thompson said she supported green initiatives but said disabled people could be "seriously disadvantaged if we can't find a proper alternative".

She said: "I've got lots of friends who have to have a straw to drink."

"It could be tens of thousands of people affected by this in a very negative way."

The Marine Conservation Society estimates the UK uses 8.5 billion straws every year and it found they were among the top 10 items found in beach clean-ups last year.

A major report on Wednesday said the amount of plastic in the ocean could treble in a decade unless litter was curbed.

Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds was born without arms and legs after her mother was prescribed the drug Thalidomide during pregnancy.

Image caption,
Straws are only available on request at SA Brain venues

She said: "The anti-plastic straw debate has enraged me because it has been one-sided. No-one has consulted disabled people.

"A significant number of us rely on the humble plastic straw to be able to drink a glass of water, wine or a cup of coffee.

"It's a fundamental human right to be able to have a drink and to be able to drink it as and when you need to drink it, and to do it independently."

Mrs Moriarty-Simmonds said she would support environmentally-friendly alternatives, but said the current options, such as biodegradable, wheat, glass and stainless steel straws, were unsuitable for use with hot drinks because they either disintegrate or conduct heat.

SA Brain is one of many companies looking to reduce its reliance on single-use plastic products.

In November, the brewer and hospitality company launched #strawssuck - a campaign which means straws are only available to customers on request.

Natasha Williams, senior operations manager at the company, said it had gone down well with customers, adding: "It's extremely important to ensure that our guests always have the choice to have the straw if they need it."