It’s a move that’s being almost unanimously applauded coast to coast, but it’s one that has unintentionally impacted some of Winnipeg’s most vulnerable.
The banning of single-use plastic straws has been picking up steam in 2018, with more than 65 restaurants in the city taking part in the green initiative. But some advocacy groups are speaking out about the unintended consequence of the ban on people living with disabilities.
Many battling illnesses that affect motor functions rely heavily on straws, as they cannot bend down to glasses or securely hold them long or high enough to drink.
Winnipeg’s Greg Krawchuk is one of those people. Krawchuk lives with ALS and has used a bendable straw to drink for more than a year.
While restaurants make a environmentally-charged decision to rid landfills of the straws, Krawchuk still needs them to drink.
Diana Rasmussen of the ALS Society of Manitoba said on Tuesday it’s an important utensil for many in the community.
“We use straws all the time for all of our folks who have ALS,” Rasmussen said. “It’s very important for people with disabilities to be able to have the tools in their toolbox…and know they’re going to be able to go to their favourite place and be able to have the drinks they want.
“There is going to be a cause and effect. If they went into a place that doesn’t have straws, it would certainly pose a problem.”
Many of the restaurants in Winnipeg banning straws have taken measures to help people with disabilities, including Assiniboine Park. The organization started to phase out single-use plastic this summer.
“For people with disabilities, we do provide a stainless steel option,” said Dustin Karsin, Head of Environment and Sustainability. “We wanted to take a look at what from our operations can we reduce to try to help eliminate some garbage and single-use plastic was a big one for us.
“It’s really about creating a conscious awareness about reducing waste. We’re not trying to take away options from people with disabilities.”
Rasmussen said steel straws and bendable options by request are moves establishments can make to aid those living with disabilities, but until every restaurant and bar begins to provide the alternatives, people like Krawchuk will have to be prepared when leaving the house.
“We suggest they carry a straw or straws with them,” Rasmussen said. “We would say ‘get prepared.'”
“If you want to drink your cup of coffee, you better have something with you.”