An exemption to laws banning single-use plastic straws has been granted by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for medical and disability use.
People who need to use them for such reasons – along with suppliers who provide them – will still be able to do so even after the next stage of plastic bans commence in November.
Organisations and suppliers that are legally allowed to sell straws include hospitality venues and F&B providers such as restaurants, cafes, canteens, kiosks, and health facilities.
As demand increases for plastic alternatives, so do concerns from the disabled community on how plastic-straw bans will create difficulties adding to their existing challenges.
Arthritis advocacy group, Creaky Joints, says the disabled community knows there are reusable and plastic-free alternatives to straws. However, most alternatives fail to have the same useful attributes as plastic straws.
Paper straws made out of biodegradable materials often fall apart quickly.
Silicone, glass, and metal straws aren’t flexible, an important feature of bendable straws for people with mobility limitations.
Metal straws pose a safety risk and are hard and inflexible.
Lisbet Spanjaard, executive director for engagement, education, and programs for EPA, said that the exemption would help people who depend on single-use plastic straws to maintain their quality of life.
“The exemption will ensure that people who need straws for disability or medical reasons, or others acting on their behalf like carers, family and teachers, can continue to access them even after they are banned in NSW later this year,” explained Spanjaard.
The EPA is specifically empowered to grant the exemption under the Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021.