Disabled Groups Are Uniting Against Starbucks’ Plastic Straw Ban

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Disabled advocacy groups are calling on Starbucks to reverse its phase-out of plastic straws from its stores, highlighting the controversy of the decision.

An international coalition of disabled rights groups sent a letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, stating that his company’s decision to phase out single-use plastic straws has fomented “considerable anxiety” among the disabled community. The letter calls on Starbucks to research an alternative that satisfies both environmental concerns and disabled customers.

“It has been just over one month since your announcement of Starbucks’ intention to eliminate single-use plastic straws globally by 2020 caused considerable anxiety among the disabled community. Furthermore, the ambiguous follow-up statementhas done little to reduce these concerns and has led to many disabled people feeling excluded by the world’s largest coffee chain,” read a portion of the letter to Johnson.

Spearheaded by One in Five, a Scottish disability rights organization, Thursday’s letter was cosigned by numerous disabled groups that span North America and Europe. Signers include the Center for Disability Rights, National Disability Rights Network and numerous other organizations.

The coalition also takes issue with a number of options Starbucks plans to offer in lieu of plastic straws. Paper straws, they argue, can disintegrate too fast for people who might take longer to sip. Also, the letter suggests it can be embarrassing and cause feelings of exclusion for people who have to make special requests for a plastic straw.

“Our letter shows the strength of feeling from disabled people around the world. Starbucks must listen to their customers, including disabled people and environmentalists, and commit to investing in the research and development of a straw that doesn’t harm the environment for future generations and ensures the needs of disabled people are met,” Jamie Szymkowiak, a One in Five co-founder, said in a released statement. (RELATED: Disabled People Are Decrying The Plastic Straw Ban)

The letter comes after Starbucks announced in July that it would be doing away with single-use plastic straws within the next two years, a measure meant to be helpful for the environment. San Francisco, along with other municipalities, has already banned the plastic product. California legislators are considering a blanket ban, as well.

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