Save Our Straws

CW: Death

In recent years, an increasing number of businesses have stopped using single-use plastic straws. According to the Seattle Times, the trend began in 2018, when Seattle became the first major U.S. city to prohibit the use of plastic straws and utensils in restaurants and at other businesses. Over 200 retailers joined the “Strawless In Seattle” campaign to decrease plastic waste in the name of environmental health.

Other cities quickly followed suit. By 2019, the ban had reached Washington, D.C., where businesses complied with the limit to avoid city fines, according to NBC. Restaurants followed suit, notably coffee chain Starbucks, which met its target of eliminating plastic straws globally by 2020. By promising to eliminate plastic straws from its franchises in the United Kingdom and Ireland, McDonald’s joined the conversation in 2018. The fast-food chain’s U.S. locations may be catching up. In some states, McDonald’s is introducing lids without a place for a straw.

However, banning plastic straws and other single use plastics is problematic for many people. This includes people who live with disabilities such as Muscular Dystrophy, and Cerebral Palsy.

Daniel Gilbert lives in Kentucky. He began carrying straws with him several years ago. Gilbert has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and needs straws to be able to drink his morning coffee. He once forgot straws while he was out with friends at a bar, and the only option available was plastic coffee stirrers.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a severe, progressive muscle-wasting disease resulting in movement difficulties and, often, a need for a ventilator and premature death. Mutations in DMD (encoding dystrophin) cause the disease by preventing the generation of dystrophin in muscle. Without dystrophin, muscles are more vulnerable to damage, leading to cardiomyopathy as well as a progressive loss of muscle tissue and function.

I am one of the millions of disabled people who rely on plastic straws. Plastic straws are the only way I am able to drink at a restaurant independently. Otherwise, I have to rely on someone to help me with a glass or bottle that is full.

Cerebral Palsy affects my fine motor skills. I can’t lift a large glass without spilling it. Sometimes, I have spilled my drinks in front of my friends and family.

Alternative materials such as paper often don’t work. If someone is drinking coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, paper straws can melt. Metal straws can cause serious injuries or even death.

Elena Struthers-Gardner, was a disabled woman from England. She fell and sustained a fatal traumatic brain injury. The injury occurred when a 10-inch metal straw entered her eye in 2019.

We can all work together to make the world more sustainable. However, we should try to understand that people have specific needs that call for different solutions. Disabled people should still have access to the tools they need.


Archie, Ayana, and Dalila-Johari Paul. “Why Banning Plastic Straws Upsets People with Disabilities.” CNN, 12 July 2018,

Beament, Emily. “McDonald’s to Ban All Plastic Straws in Its UK Restaurants.” The Independent, 15 June 2018,

Duan, Dongsheng, et al. ‘Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy’. Nature Reviews Disease Primers, vol. 7, no. 1, Feb. 2021, p. 13, https://doi.org10.1038/s41572-021-00248-3.

Goodwin, Jazmin. “Starbucks Has Officially Abandoned Straws in Favor of Sippy Cup Lids … Well, Mostly.” CNN, 10 Sept. 2020,

Luna, Nancy. “McDonald’s Is Testing Strawless Lids in the US after Uproar over Paper Straws in UK.” Business Insider, 27 Jan. 2023,

Mahdawi, Arwa. “Starbucks Is Banning Straws – but Is It Really a Big Win for the Environment?” The Guardian, 23 July 2018,

Seagraves, Mark. “1 Year in, Most DC Business Complying with Plastic Straw Ban.” NBC4 Washington, 1 Jan. 2020,

Vigdor, Neil. “Fatal Accident with Metal Straw Highlights a Risk.” The New York Times, 11 July 2019,

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