Disney's plastic straw ban kind of sucks. Here are 4 better ideas.
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.

The Walt Disney Company is the latest company to hop on the plastic straw-free bandwagon.

Joining Starbucks and Marriott, Disney has said it will eliminate plastic straws, stirrers, and cups in its theme parks, cruise ships, and stores. The company said it will start phasing out the products by mid-2019 and expects to save 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers every year.

But here's the thing: There are major drawbacks to a total plastic straw ban.


First of all, straws don't really account for a large percentage of plastic waste. There are other items that cause way more harm to the environment: fishing nets, shopping bags, bottle caps, balloons, cigarette butts, and food wrappers, just to name a few.

But more importantly, it's actually critically important for disabled people to have access to single-use, flexible plastic straws. (Read why here.)

For a company that's known to foster inclusivity, accessibility, and creative imagination, a total plastic straw ban is a pretty tactless move — especially since there's so much else Disney can do.

Some consider Disney's decision to ban straws hypocritical considering that some water rollercoasters at its theme parks offer plastic bags for riders to put their personal belongings in.

There are plenty of other impactful ways Disney can reduce plastic waste without negatively affecting disabled people.

1. There's no reason to ban plastic straws completely when Disney could just cut down on their use.

The company could order fewer straws and instead of handing them out to every customer by default, provide straws to those who ask for them.

2. There are many things Disney could ban instead of straws.

Many of the other plastic items found at Disney theme parks are far more harmful to the environment than single-use straws. Instead of straws, Disney could ban plastic utensils — one of the most common items found in California landfills — from their establishments and replace them with alternatives that are either reusable or compostable.

3. Disney could set up lockers instead of handing out plastic bags for riders to stash their personal belongings in.

Disney recently announced that Ziploc is the new official sponsor of Splash Mountain, which can seat up to 1,500 riders per hour, as well as Epcot's Kidcot Fun Stops. That's a lot of bags — and a lot of harm to the ocean. Plastic bags are also a land hazard because they can take up to 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill.

4. Disney could halt the production and/or sales of balloons.

Balloon litter has tripled in the past three years, according to Balloon Blows, a nonprofit dedicated to balloon reduction. While some states have already introduced laws that prevent people from releasing balloons in the air, it's not a law that's easy to enforce. That's why one of the most effective ways Disney can help curb balloon littering is by simply refusing to sell them.

Make no mistake: Disney is taking commendable steps toward becoming a more environmentally conscious company.

But we can all work together to clean and save our planet without harming people in our own communities.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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