Banning plastic straws might be a smart environmental move, but critics say it’s not that simple
Manufacturers of plastic straws must be feeling nervous, now that the Government has announced a consultation into the possible banning of some single-use plastics. Along with cotton buds, straws have been placed firmly in MPs’ sights in order to help cut back on Britain’s plastic waste.
Around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away in the UK every year, so environmental campaigners have welcomed the news that could see a huge reduction in the plastic problem.
For most people, the prospect of plastic straws no longer being available is of little concern –paper and metal alternatives already exist. Some creative manufacturer will no doubt see opportunity in a new reusable straw market and after all, how frequently does the average person use a straw anyway?
But for some, just ditching a product that has become so ubiquitous is no easy matter. This week, Ellie Simpson from Chesterfield, who has cerebral palsy, pointed out that plastic straws were essential to the daily wellbeing of people with certain disabilities. Unable to drink without the use of a straw, a ban would have a severe negative effect on her everyday life and health. She told the media that paper straws disintegrated too quickly to be a viable alternative to plastic and metal versions could be hazardous.
For all its evils, in this case plastic has been meeting a very real and serious need. With no obvious solution in sight, the Government has said it will consider making exceptions for plastic straws that are used for medical reasons.
This is a clear indicator that further innovation is needed in the world of materials, to ensure that human society can continue to meet everybody’s needs without suffocating the planet.
Are you working on an eco-friendly alternative to plastic? Get in touch with the Breakthrough Funding team on 0800 772 0800 and you could be featured in Breakthrough Magazine.