Deakin University

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Going thirsty for the turtles: Plastic straw bans, people with swallowing disability, and Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water

journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-20, 22:54 authored by B Hemsley, S Darcy, F Given, BR Murray, Susan BalandinSusan Balandin
Purpose: This paper relates to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Life Below Water (SDG 14) and the need to consider Better Health and Well-Being (SDG 3) in interventions designed to reduce plastic straw waste. The aim of this paper is to explore the competing demands of saving the world’s oceans and sea life from plastic straw waste, and simultaneously meeting the health and social needs of people with swallowing or physical disability who use plastic straws for drinking. Result: In order to meet both SDG 14 and not compromise SDG 3 there is a need for collaborative and interdisciplinary, person-centred, inclusive innovation approaches to finding suitable and acceptable alternatives to plastic straws. Many people with swallowing disability will need a durable, flexible, and single-use straw that is resilient enough to withstand jaw closure without breaking. Co-design considerations include the alternative straw being (a) soft and flexible so as not to damage the teeth of people who bite to stabilise the jaw or who have a bite reflex; (b) suitable for both hot and cold drinks; (c) flexible for angling to the mouth; (d) readily, thoroughly and easily cleaned to a high standard of hygiene; (e) widely available for low or no cost wherever drinks are served; and (f) safe for people to use while reducing impact on the environment and being sustainable. Conclusion: Plastic straws are an assistive technology critical for the social inclusion of people with disability. In an inclusive society, reaching a policy position on the provision of plastic straws must include seeking out and listening to the voices of people with sensory, intellectual, physical, or multiple disabilities who use plastic straws.



International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology









Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal