What is ableism?

Ableism – Photo credit

Ableism – The practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. A set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.

Header image credit

Plastic pollition?

Plastic pollution in Ghana, 2018 – Photo credit.

You may have seen statistics in which 500 million straws are used a day in the US. It was discovered a 9 year old boy named Milo Cress was the person behind this research! According to Stanford Earth plastic straws makeup 1% of the plastic pollution problem. But why are plastic straws getting so much heat compared to other disposable items?

Dune Ives, executive director for the Lonely Whale Foundation said:

“That’s why we chose the plastic straw. To us, it was the “gateway plastic” to the larger, more serious plastic pollution conversation. Plus, plastic straws are social tools and props, the perfect conversation starter. In starting the conversation by pairing something playful alongside our gross human overconsumption. We aimed to nudge people toward understanding the issue.”

This statement implies that plastic straws are “props” and aren’t a necessary item. Whereas to disabled people and those with chronic health problems, this is very different!

According to Earth Stanford the straw ban may give companies and customers the feeling that have done their part. The plastic straw is a “easy option”, but the most important step is that the ban is the first step in moving away from single-use plastics.

It isn’t just plastic straws in which disabled people rely on. Those with limited mobility or who have trouble standing for too long, might need to use paper plates or plastic cutlery instead of paying for someone to clean the dishes for them

The plastic Straw ban

Straw ban – Photo credit.

The plastic straw has became the poster child for plastic pollution and its impact on the environment and wildlife. Whilst some may feel the straw is frivolous, it is actually very necessary for disabled people. There are many reasons why a disabled person would need a plastic straw including:

  • Mobility and strength issues – Can’t hold or lift the drink high enough to drink from.
  • Poor motor coordination – Can’t safely hold a drink without spilling.
  • Medication usage – Certain medications need to be taken with a straw.

You may be thinking about reusable straws, why can’t disabled people just use them? Well reusable straws come with their own health risks including:

  • Injury risk – Metal, bamboo, glass & acrylic straws.
  • Allergy risks – Compostable straws.
  • Risk of choking – Paper & pasta straws
  • Hygiene risk – Difficult for people to clean with hand mobility issues.
Jessica talks about plastic straw alternatives and how the straw ban affects disabled people.

Where do I fit into this?

Stacey using mobility aids

You may be wondering how do I fit into this, well due to chronic back pain I am disabled. I struggle walking and rely on the use of very ugly looking NHS crutches. I have put off writing about this subject for a while, for fear I am not “disabled enough”. Internalised ableism is a very real.

Something that I may not need, another disabled person may rely on for their health and wellbeing. Disability looks different for everyone, it isn’t a one size fits all. It’s the same with zero waste. It looks different for everyone.

There are some things I struggle to do as a zero waste person that other able bodied zero waste people won’t.

These are the things I do that aren’t zero waste “friendly” but they make my life easier when I am struggling with chronic pain and fatigue:

  • Taking regular medication.
  • Using the dryer when I am unable to carry laundry outside.
  • Getting takeouts.
  • Using mobility aids.
  • Using public transport or taxis, rather than walking.
  • Using food progresser for chopping vegetables.
  • I have considered pre-chopped veggies and ready meals, to help make things easier.

What can we do?

A “perfect” zero waste pantry – Photo Credit.

Environmental activism is painted as a “personal mission”. It is something that involves making change in your own personal life. Zero waste is surrounded by perfectionism and competition! We are constantly looking at what everyone is doing! The zero waste community isn’t always friendly for beginners as they face criticism, rather than encouragement!

We need to work together and focus on what we can do, and how we can make change. What about governments, corporations and organisations? We need to be putting more pressure on these to make change!

Thank you for reading

Lets chat! What do you think about ableism in the zero waste community? Is disability something that needs to be talked about more in the zero waste community? Please comment below or message me on Facebook or Instagram.

Like this post? Please share with your friends or on social media!

Safe safe,




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3 thoughts on “Ableism, Disability, Zero waste & Me

  1. I really like this article. Societally, I think it’s important to cut waste for those who can afford that cut, while reserving things like plastic straws for those who can’t. I think it’ll take a major shift in the dominant culture to achieve the idea of “do I really need this” as a prevalent question, but one can hope.


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