There are so many little things that either improve or make living as normally as possible despite having a chronic illness. With California’s recent straw law, I’ve discovered how important plastic straws are to my own chronic life.
This post is not an environmental or political debate. Instead, its purpose is to showcase why some people need plastic straws and to share some options for those who live in or plan to visit California.
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. Meaning that at no additional cost to you, I receive a commission when you make a purchase through my links.
Like I stated above, I’m not going to debate whether banning or restricting plastic straws will or will not make an environmental difference. Click here or on the picture below to learn more about the restrictions.
What’s the big deal?
As the article states, some companies like Starbucks and Disneyland have already replaced plastic straws.
Wondering what the problem is?
One problem is with the type of straw that is replacing the plastic ones.
Starbucks has replaced the lids for some of their cold drinks to ones that look like a toddler’s sippy cup. Aesthetics aside, drinking without a straw is a problem for those of us who live with health conditions that cause muscle stiffness or spasms in our necks, arms, and hands.
Both Starbucks and Disneyland have recently replaced plastic straws with paper ones. Before you ask what’s the problem with that, listen to what I and others have to say. First, paper straws stick to your lips and they get soggy fast! So unless you are someone who drinks a Trenta iced tea in less than 10 minutes, your straw will disintegrate in your cup. Not only will you be left strawless, but you will also have chunks of your straw ruining your beverage.
Health and wellness
As someone with a wonky immune system, I would also prefer to not place my mouth on the edge of the cup where someone else has placed their hands or fingers. Straws help me avoid a few extra germs that my body doesn’t know how to fight off.
These are not just my complaints, they are the same complaints that I’ve heard from my family and pretty much everyone in earshot of me at Disneyland. I overheard (yes, I eavesdrop 😋) the conversations of several Disneyland guests with cast members in regards to the straws last week. Each one, even with different reasons, some health-related some not, all ended with the same response from cast members: Purchase a reusable metal straw and bring it with you.
Why a reusable straw isn’t always the answer
By now you may be wondering why I’m still aggravated, but as I’m about to share, a reusable straw isn’t always the best option for the disabled, elderly, or those living with chronic pain.
Personally, I am allergic to metal. A metal straw would be ideal to carry as it would be the least apt to break in my bag. However, not being able to tolerate any metal, this includes surgical steel and hypoallergenic materials, in my mouth for any period of time chucks this option into the trash.
While silicone may be an option for me, it might not be for others.
What’s the big deal
One problem with bringing our own reusable straws, whether they are silicone or metal, is that they need to be washed after every use. One of the chronic lifestyle changes I emphasize in my eBook Make Pain Your Bitch: How to Dominate Your Chronic Life is to eliminate unnecessary energy zappers. Those who don’t know what it’s like to live with limited energy or physical abilities are clueless when it comes to understanding how what may seem like a simple task has the ability to increase pain and fatigue.
I’m going to use Disneyland as an example since that’s where I spend most of my time. Getting around the theme park with a mobility aid or physical disability can be quite difficult.
Restrooms, where we would need to wash our straws are the worst for accessibility. Unless you’re near one of the few companion restrooms, accessing a sink when using a mobility aid is not easily done. It’s similar to forcing your car onto the highway when traffic isn’t budging. Just like on the 405, people cut in front and pay no attention that you were waiting for the one accessible sink.
It can also be difficult to get to a sink on foot when the crowd level is high. This creates stress which increases physical pain and is why I carry hand sanitizer and wipes and skip the sinks. The energy that I would need to exert in order to wash my straw multiple times throughout my visit is enough to send me home in more pain than I needed to experience.
Please don’t suggest that I send someone else in my party to wash straws. I want you to think about how much you love your independence. Plus, relying on others shouldn’t be our only option unless absolutely necessary.
So what are our options?
1. We keep fighting for the tools that allow us to live in less pain. It is important to hang onto our independence as long as possible.
2. We bring our own:
- Disposable plastic straws in a carry case
- Silicone and metal straws
- Collapsible metal straws
- Plant-Based Compostable Straws
For now, I am stocking up on plastic straws and plan to try the plastic alternative ones pictured above. I have purchased hard cases to keep them from breaking while being transported in my bag/purse.
I use cups with reusable straws at home where they can be easily washed. However, when I’m on the go I need every ounce of energy to accomplish what needs to be done. For now, that does not include washing cups and straws in public restrooms.
If you think this isn’t an issue for you because your state or country hasn’t created laws prohibiting or restricting the use of plastic straws or you don’t plan to visit California, think again. As always it’s just a matter of time until others replicate California’s law.
Does the plastic straw ban bother you? Why or why not?