OLYMPIA — Despite a bus cancellation, a group of students from Kirkland’s Lake Washington High School made it to Olympia on Jan. 24 to express support for a statewide ban on single-use plastic straws.
The idea for Senate Bill 5077 was originally conceived in the students’ Advanced Placement Government class, taught by Michael Dawson. It was one of two bill ideas prime sponsor Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, agreed to work on and propose to the legislature this session.
Effective July 1 Seattle banned food service businesses from providing disposable straws unless they were compostable or recyclable. SB 5077, aimed to reduce plastic waste in the oceans, would ban all single-use plastic straws, even if they were recyclable or compostable.
Sean Bickley, a communications specialist for disability rights group The Arc of King County, testified with concerns for those who specifically need plastic straws to drink water. He said that efforts would be better spent banning larger plastics that are not essential to some with disabilities to access hydration, like plastic lids and utensils.
“Honestly I’m just very horrified because I’ve mostly heard people who are not affected by this issue assume that everything’s going to be fine. Name dropping the disability community doesn’t mean anything if you’re not going to listen to us,” said Bickley. “The disability community has opposed straw bans, including in Seattle.”
Committee chair Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, acknowledged that Kuderer requested an early hearing date to open up conversations with the disability community.
The Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee also heard from the Straw Kids, a group of elementary school students and parents who have been advocating for a single-use plastic straw ban for the past year. They have spoken to city councils in Redmond, Kirkland, Shoreline, and Edmonds.
Kuderer, Lake Washington students, and the Straw Kids all acknowledged the impact to the disability community and called for conversations about ways to accommodate those affected.
According to the Associated Press, straws account for two tenths of a percent of the plastic waste that enters the oceans every year.
“A plastic straw ban is not going to be the singular policy that solves our plastic pollution problem,” Sen. Kuderer said. “Reducing the demand for plastic straws is a concrete action we can take right now to help our environment, and honestly even the low hanging fruit is worth picking.”