Disability-rights advocates point out that some people with physical or neurological disorders rely on plastic straws as tool of daily life. They say that drinking straw bans can cause real hardship for people with conditions like cerebral palsy, pointing out that for some people, a straw can be the difference between independence and needing help to drink.
"It's no surprise, then, the bans on straws will impact different segments of society differently. Straws help provide a measure of independence to some people with disabilities," Capizzi said.
More eco-friendly alternatives, such as straws made from metal, bamboo, and paper, are not as always as suitable as single-use plastic straws. Metal straws can get too hot, are not positionable, and can possibly break teeth, especially among people with certain disabilities. Paper straws can't be used in hot liquids, and they dissolve, creating a choking hazard, advocates say.
At the same time, some argue that straw bans may actually do little to protect the environment. Popular support for bans on single use plastics tends to focus on oceanic pollution, as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now calculated to be more than 600,000 square miles. Yet straws compose only 0.02 percent of waste found in the ocean. Fishing gear--which the World Wildlife Fund identifies as the biggest threat to sea turtles--is the largest source of plastic waste.
Capizzi urged that while Catholics work to protect the planet as a common home for all humanity, they give attention to the personal concerns of those who might be left behind by advertising campaigns and popular videos.
"You may recall years ago, the Montreal Protocol was passed and implemented to address chlorofluorocarbons and their adverse effects on the ozone layer. Because some medicines were delivered by CFCs, special carve-out provisions were provided so those people could continue to receive their medicine cheaply and effectively," he said.
"The move to look at the impact of plastics on the environments is well-intentioned: reliable evidence points out damaging effects of plastics on our environment. But before proceeding, care should be taken to weigh the impact this limited ban will have on populations for whom plastic straws are no mere convenience."