Weekly Poll – Single-use Plastic Items

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 7 December 2020, we asked a question about single-use plastic items.

Results

Do you support the proposal to introduce a restriction on the supply of single-use plastic items (for example: plastic straws, cutlery, plates, cups) in Scotland? 

  • YES – 66% (42 respondents)
  • NO – 34% (22 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Plastic Pollution

Respondents recognised the need to take meaningful action to curb the worst effects of plastic pollution, with 66% (42 respondents) stating they would support the introduction of a restriction on the supply of single-use plastics.

“Anything we can do to stop the dumping of plastics. I am disgusted at the complete disregard people have for the world we share.”

“I can see the benefits on restrictions of single use, it will be so much better for the environment.”

“This will assist with reducing the pollution in our sea and help our marine life.”

Plastic Straws

Despite the majority of respondents (66%) supporting the general principle of implementing restrictions on the supply of single-use plastic items, there are specific concerns on the usage of plastic straws, which can act as an accessibility aid for some disabled people.

“Potential stigmatisation of disabled people who need plastic straws. Difficult to balance ease of access at the point of need while minimising a culture of non-disabled people deliberately but unnecessarily taking them e.g., if left out in a pub for customers to take if needed.”

“I feel that everyone has been too hasty in their decision to ban plastic straws as for some people it is the only way they are able to independently have a drink.”

Exemptions

A portion of respondents suggested that some single-use plastics, such as straws, should be exempt from the restrictions, due to the benefits they provide to some disabled people.

“I support most of the proposal but hope there are exemptions for plastic straws as some disabled people cannot go without these.”

“Plastic straws should still be available to those who need them.”

“Disabled people need plastic straws.”

“A total ban on straws I would not support. My brother needed to use a straw to drink because he was so weak with cancer.”

Alternatives to Plastic

There were suggestions from some respondents regarding materials that can act as an alternative to plastics, which may have less of an impact on the environment.

“I understand the reason for wanting to retain things like single use plastic straws, but do they have to be made of plastic? There are alternative materials that are biodegradable.”

“Most of the items can be made from other durable washable materials e.g. stainless steel straw, or from recyclable paper.”

“Banning plastic straws will mean recyclable alternatives can be introduced and this will save the environment. Straws are needed for people who are disabled but they should be made out of a material that doesn’t damage the environment or the fish in the sea.”

“We can find new ways to overcome this issue. Bamboo straws?”

However, respondents noted that alternatives to plastics often do not offer the same level of support for disabled people that currently benefit from using plastic straws.

“Other options are not suitable due to dexterity for cleaning them or other reasons such as biting down on the hard material due to their disability.”

“More rigid straws are no use to people with cerebral palsy for example as they can bite down on them causing pain. The paper straws are not very good for hot drinks and not flexible enough.”

“Some people cannot manage paper straws so some alternative needs to be available for them.”

Engage with Disabled People

At Disability Equality Scotland, we are a membership-led organisation, and we suggest continued engagement with disabled people to ensure appropriate solutions are identified for people who benefit from using plastic straws.

“Before getting rid of something one needs to evaluate the impact of such a decision and, as appropriate, work out what is to replace it. I’m not convinced either of these actions has been taken satisfactorily.”

“More thought should be put into alternatives before banning single-use altogether.”

Conclusion

Disability Equality Scotland members are supportive of measures to reduce plastic pollution; however, careful consideration must be given to disabled people who benefit from using plastic straws. Some respondents suggested having exemptions for items that provide benefits to disabled people. There were also suggestions to consider alternatives to plastics, which may have less of an impact on the environment, although some respondents raised concerns that alternatives do not offer the same level of functionality. Meaningful engagement with disabled people can ensure that workable solutions are identified.

About Disability Equality Scotland

We are a national charity working to make life more accessible, equal and inclusive for disabled people in Scotland.

We promote access in its widest sense, including access to the built and natural environment and access to the same opportunities as are enjoyed by others in our communities thus promoting a life of dignity, respect, choice and independence. This extends beyond physical access to include access to information, access to inclusive communication and inclusion in decision-making, whether with planners over inclusive design or transport providers about accessible travel.

We represent the views of individuals with any type of impairment, as well as disability organisations and groups who share Disability Equality Scotland’s values.

We are also the umbrella organisation for all disability Access Panels in Scotland and the principal provider of support and guidance to the Access Panels presently representing disabled persons at a local level throughout Scotland.  Access Panels are committed to improving access and equality in its widest form, which means access to the physical environment, Education, Housing, Health, Transport, Leisure & Recreation and Social Justice amongst other areas.

We are membership led. If you are an individual or an organisation, you can join our membership for FREE and help to further our aims. We work to influence the policies of the Scottish Government, which affect how disabled people live and we work to encourage others to be inclusive and informed in their attitudes towards disabled people.