Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018
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I am an environmentalist opposed to disposable straws. My disability challenged my views.

FILE PHOTO: Skewered straws hang from a glass on an illustration photo in Loughborough, UK, on ​​April 19, 2018. REUTERS / Darren Staples / Photo File (Darren Staples / Reuters) About Washington is a new Washington Post initiative to cover issues of identity in the United States. Register to receive the newsletter. Two years ago, I was chewing a tortilla when I heard a bone crunch and a distinct sound, followed by a sharp humming in the ear. By the time I pushed back my jaw, the swelling had already begun. I had a severe sprain in the jaw, a problem that my doctor attributed to Ehler Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disease that means that I am deficient in collagen, which keeps our bones and noses joints in place. Over the next few days, I could barely open my mouth, eating only soft foods such as mashed potatoes and porridge. I had to sip smoothies and other drinks with a straw.
About the US logo (N / A) This new straw addiction has created another challenge. As a committed ecologist for most of my adult life, I have
blogged for years on the misdeeds of disposable straws. I usually rejected them in restaurants long before it became the fashionable thing to do. I have therefore tried my reusable straws made of hard plastic or stainless steel. Although they worked quite well, the sharp edges dug my lips and squeezed painfully against my clenched teeth. I sprained my jaw only once, and both times the straws only added to my pain. Experience shows that I am an environmentalist against the needs of my disability. I was at the center of a debate that prompted several cities and companies to institute plastic straw bans this year, including Starbucks and Delta. These bans have often come up against the vocal objections of physically disabled people who depend on straw for food and hydration. But as my illness progressed, I understood better how much straw could be crucial for many people. Nevertheless, I still think that it is possible to find a compromise on the straw issue to address environmental concerns while taking into account the needs of people with disabilities. My commitment to the environment comes from my childhood, I grew up in an impoverished color community in New York. My neighborhood, Sunset Park, was famous for the pollution of its environment, including plastic. In fact, an editorial published in 2016 by the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance advocated a nickel tax on plastic bags to reduce waste treated in transfer facilities from multiple low-income neighborhoods. income, including mine. Families living in these neighborhoods therefore have high rates of asthma and other diseases. When I was a child at Sunset Park, I often had to stay helpless in front of cousins, then later with my brother and mother, looking for air with bulging eyes while desperately searching for their inhalers. Some of my parents and neighbors have been affected by rare and aggressive cancers or by other progressive diseases, some of which said they were too young. I have developed a severe form of endometriosis, a disease that would have been affected – and some of which would be suspected – by overexposure to environmental toxins, including those found in plastic. Ironically, many people with disabilities need some plastic products like straw to meet their basic health needs, but plastic pollution can also contribute to the development of some disabling medical conditions. For me, using plastic is not usually in the interest of my fragile health because it potentially introduces more endocrine disrupting chemicals into my body, which can worsen endometriosis. I can not already have biological children and live in intense daily pain because of this illness and Ehler Danlos syndrome. And I hate the idea that more people will suffer in this way without immediate environmental intervention. The problem could become more critical now that China no longer accepts our plastic waste. If we do not significantly reduce the production and use of single-use plastics, we will simply shift the negative health impacts of disposing and processing this plastic from poor people living abroad. for the benefit of the poor in our own country. Yet, in a hurry to make a symbolic gesture to tackle plastic waste, some companies such as Starbucks and municipalities like Seattle have initially neglected the needs of people with disabilities by instituting their ban on straw. , by failing to offer adequate alternatives to those who need them. This may not only provoke negative reactions to such environmental efforts, but may also hurt vulnerable people who need straw to survive. There is a better way to solve this problem. Instead of outright prohibition or large scale, we can put a stop to the recreational uses of straw by imposing rules of the type "ask first" in restaurants and restaurants. This could significantly reduce our collective consumption of straws – up to 50% to 90%, according to some estimates – while guaranteeing access to those who need it for medical purposes. We can also develop better reusable straw options made of more durable and flexible materials, such as silicone, that better meet the needs of some people with disabilities than most current alternatives. And it is important to remember that while straws are part of the plastic problem, they are a relatively small part of it, especially in relation to products such as plastic packaging, fishing gear and shopping bags. unique. As a result, interdiction campaigns could be more effectively concentrated in these areas. I am lucky to find that the times I have needed straws for medical reasons have been minimal, although that may change in the future. In the meantime, I believe we have the capacity to come up with innovative solutions that can both address the health needs of people with disabilities and protect poor communities from the environmental impact of plastic waste. More information about the United States: an American in Hong Kong: I thought I was very Chinese, until I moved to Hong Kong. White parents teach their children to be color-blind. Here is why it's bad for everyone. An Innovative Approach to Criminal Justice Reform: Entrusting Responsibility to Black Women

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