I have to start preparing for the plastic apocalypse. Yes, I may just have to start hoarding plastic bendy straws and forks.
And also hopefully never get caught with them.
(She says to the entire internet.)
Or ever run out.
I get it: We want to be eco-friendly. Save the turtles.
But don’t we also want to be sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities? A ban on plastics is a ban on tools that I and many others need to use. And yes, I said need.
I’m a Canadian. By 2021, my government officials want a complete ban on nonbiodegradable single-use plastics.
This is a policy that is being considered and implemented internationally.
I asked another person living with spinal muscular atrophy his opinion on the plastic ban.
Here is Alvaro’s opinion:
“I use plastic straws, plastic plates, plastic cups, and plastic utensils. I use them because it makes my life easier and gives me more of an independent life. Other options are heavier which makes it harder for me since I’m not strong and very limited in movement due to my disability. It’s already hard for me to lift a plastic cup, so imagine a glass cup, that’s where the plastic straws come in and make the job easier. If plastic products are completely banned, then whatever little independence I have left is completely gone, and that can affect me mentally and not in a good way. Plastic straws might, which I doubt, be killing turtles, but paper straws are killing me.”
There are rumors that, by the time that this is implemented, anybody caught using single-use plastics will be fined. Right now, you can be fined in certain places for handing out plastic bags in your business.
I have no specific beef with the government wanting to ban plastic bags. I have no connection to these items, but this is not to say that nobody else does. I think these things can be monitored better instead of being banned. Yes, charging for plastic bags is fine. I would even pay to have a straw at a restaurant. But don’t completely take away my tools.
A lot of people are going to tell me that this is not a need. These people also don’t assist me in daily life. Finding multiuse plastic straws that are actually the right length is nearly impossible. That’s why I use a bendy straw in daily life. The position that you would have to put my cup in for me to be able to take a drink out of long, unmovable plastic or metal straw ends up making whatever is in the cup spill on me.
Bendy straws also don’t jab me in the teeth like hard plastic or metal straws do.
Paper straws tend to disintegrate when used in liquids, especially for long periods. They can be a choking hazard if you pull soggy paper up through them when taking a drink. I choke on my own spit half the time; I don’t need any extra choking hazards.
I actually use single-use plastic forks multiple times. I wash and reuse them, often until they break. Metal is too heavy for me to lift, but plastic ones are light enough to allow me to feed myself. If I still have the ability to feed myself, then of course, I’m going to want to. If you take plastic forks away, you are taking away this independence.
You may not think that this is a big deal, but loss of independence often affects mental health. We can become stuck in the mindset that we are useless or a burden, no matter what others say. We deal with this enough in our day-to-day lives. A ban on plastics would hang these feelings over us even more, because even though we have the ability to do something, we no longer have the tools to help us.
You may think you’re helping the environment, but in the process you’re actually making the world less accessible for us. Quite honestly, if we want to be able to do something ourselves, we should be able to. Everyone else does.
My disease steals enough of my abilities. And now so does the rest of the world.
I understand what the bans’ intentions are, but there are better ways to accomplish a similar outcome. Instead of implementing this for all individuals, they can turn their eyes to larger companies that produce most of the plastic waste. There could be more regulation of what plastics are used for and closer monitoring of pollution on beaches.
I’m sure that there are even more options that we could come up with, but a ban shouldn’t be one of them.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.