We have been surrounded by discussion of Prime Minister Theresa May’s 25 year plan to protect the environment. At the centre of this plan is a number of measures to limit, if not eradicate, so-called ‘throwaway plastics’.
As someone who loves nature, animals and our planet, I wholeheartedly support any and all efforts to improve and maintain our ecosystem and keep it healthy. We have high levels of air pollution across the globe, and that worries me. Scientific research is really only beginning to understand the impact of the microscopic particles we breathe in.
I have a very expensive air purifier in my room to try to limit any pollutants doing any damage to my already fragile lungs. As someone living with a neuromuscular condition which limits my strength – both physical and health related – I am always on the lookout as to how to look after myself.
With birthday money last year, I bought a reusable, insulated mug which has a 36 inch permanent straw for over £50 – and then was forced into paying a large customs duty because I could not find the long straws I need to drink independently in any shops and was dehydrating due to the difficulty in drinking. I also knew this was better for the environment. In December, I had to buy another one as my straw had broken. This has worked out at well over £100 in a year.
How much does the average person spend on an insulated, reusable mug? I’d wager not more than £10!
I’m lucky – I have the means to afford this. But from straws, lightweight paper cups, food that is easily prepared and eaten, I benefit from plastic. But it is not a luxury. A straw is total necessity when you can’t always lift a cup to your mouth.
I am tube fed, and receive medication through syringes. The equipment for this medical intervention only lasts for around a week – but at least it keeps me alive and well, able to contribute to our society.
Plastic bags are not necessary, but lightweight cups are. Microbeads are not necessary, but straws are. Plastic packaging on pre-cut, pre-prepared food is essential for disabled people. Without these things, we will be in trouble.
I’m already experiencing the difficulty with the slow move away from restaurants stocking straws. A family member is having to feed me my drink at the dinner table. I use plastic cutlery on my weak days – will I be taxed on this by Theresa May’s plans?
I totally welcome the efforts from Theresa May to reduce waste. For those of us living with medical conditions, we need everything from a plastic bottle of high sugar drinks – which are already being ‘sugar taxed’ – to straws to ensure we remain healthy.
I’m delighted to see Government funding for plastics innovation. It is clear that we need alternative materials and methods, but right now we are in a position where this plan could put disabled people at a real risk. It could further burden the NHS with malnourished and dehydrated disabled people. That would equally be a totally avoidable humanitarian crisis of the largest minority group there is.
My message to our leaders is this – make disabled people exempt. It is reasonable that shops should continue to stock some plastic products under access requirements for the disabled people who need it. Where possible, provide funding for those who can use alternative products like Fleximug or mobile arm supports available. Do not make me suffer for the faults of the consumer at large.
Whether it’s a sensory issue for an autistic person, or a physical issue for people like me, we must take steps to ensure we protect the vulnerable from this Government once more.
Please, Theresa May – protect the accessible products made from plastic, and help disabled people be healthy and independent.
Trailblazers has now moved to pan-disability charity Whizz-Kidz (September 2020).