Reusable Straws- Helpful for some, hurtful for others

HUSC’s giveaway of reusable straws sparks thoughts of the plastic straw stigma

Emily Brown, Senior Columnist

HUSC elections just took place and everyone who voted received a HUSC related prize. While we usually give out a water bottle in the fall and a t-shirt in the spring, this fall HUSC gave out reusable straws. They decided to do this for a couple reasons.


Number one, it’s a lot cheaper. And I mean A LOT! I was talking to Dieu Do, Vice President of HUSC, and we saved about $5,000 dollars by getting the straws instead of water bottles. This is amazing! One of the awesome things HUSC does for Hamline is to spend money for various projects to improve our wonderful but old campus. 


The second reason is the concern of students using a lot of plastic straws at Starbucks and Subway. This concern is valid. We Hamline students love our green straws, and we go through them like water. 


Climate change and the environment are major topics are right now and with good reason. It is estimated that if we continue to live like we are until 2050, climate change will be irreversible. 


We need to do everything we can to reverse the damage we created which includes cutting down on our waste. America has gotten the idea that banning plastic single use straws would vastly reduce our waste that cannot be recycled. This has a major negative effect on the disabled community. Places can now deny people 


According to National Geographic, one time use plastic straws only make up 0.025% of the world’s waste. If we would stop using plastic straws today and never used a single one again, we still would have 99.975% of the waste and we’ll be nowhere different than we are right now.


But that isn’t my only concern. I’m also worried about what message it sends the students about plastic straws and people who use them. 


A lot of disabled people such as myself are unable to drink from an open cup. I aspirate and cough a lot and if I drink from an open cup, it seriously feels as if I’m drowning. I use straws to drink everything from my milk and to my water in my water bottles. I use an average of four or five straws a day. 


Because I go through multiple straws a day, it would be very difficult to bring a couple straws in my backpack and have to wash them every day or every few days. Some other problems with forcing everyone to use reusable straws are the safety hazards and the stiffness of some straws. Thankfully, the HUSC straws are both safe to use and flexible.


But a stigma has grown around plastic straws and people who use them. I feel guilty for using a tool I’ve used since daycare and I worry people would judge me for using it. We should be acknowledging the idea of how it is okay and sometimes necessary for people to use single use plastic straws instead of promoting plastic straws as a useless luxury.


For some people, straws are a medical requirement, and they should be treated as such. Disabled people already have enough stigma to deal with, and we deserve to drink in peace.