PETALING JAYA: In light of the plastic straw ban in the Federal Territories next year, advocates representing persons with disabilities (PWDs) have urged eateries to provide alternative drinking straws to those with limited physical movements.
“Straws are needed by those with neurological problems or have limited physical movement such as tetraplegics or quadriplegics,” said founder and chairman of the non-governmental organisation OKU Sentral Ras Adiba Radzi.
“Restaurants should provide reusable or recyclable straws,” she said, adding that the food and beverage outlets should either give them free to PWDs or charge a minimal fee.
Her comments came about following last week’s announcement by the government that plastic straws would be banned in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan from Jan 1 next year.
Federal Territories Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Adnan Mohd Ikhsan, however, made clear that business operators that offered plastic straws to customers for medical reasons would not be penalised.
He also said that although the ban was included as a requirement in the business licence for next year, full enforcement of the ban would only be effected from Jan 1, 2020.
Ras Adiba said the PWD community was supportive of the move to encourage more eco-friendly practices, but urged that the community should not be left behind in lieu of the green initiative.
“We are part of society, we want to help save the environment, but we need to be met halfway,” she said.
Senator Bathmavathi Krishnan said eateries could provide a limited number of biodegradable plastic straws specifically for the PWD community.
As metal straws cannot be bent or angled and paper straws may fray in water over time, she said, biodegradable straws might be the “best bet” for the PWD community.
Other straws such as silicone or pasta straws are also viable alternatives, she added.
Malaysian Spinal Cord Injury Advocacy Association also urged restaurants to be aware that the plastic straw ban did not apply to the PWD community.
“Premises that sell food and drinks need to be aware of the exemptions made for the PWD so that there would not arise any confusion when the time comes, especially if it involves additional costs.
“For certain PWD such as those with spinal cord injury (tetraplegia, quadriplegia), cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, amputation (of the hands), the ban would affect their daily lives,” it said in a Facebook post.
The association added that the suggestion for the PWD to bring their own straws may not be viable for them.
“In certain circumstances, there is no one to help them retrieve these items from their bags,” it said.