Starbucks' straw ban questioned by disability rights groups

Starbucks' recent news to get rid of plastic straws at all its stores by 2020 has raised concerns among disability rights groups.

After the coffee chain made the announcement last week, activists said the elimination of straws could negatively affect some people with disabilities and planned to protest the decision.

“Eliminating plastic straws can cause many people with disabilities like myself not to be able to eat or drink in a restaurant, in a cafe … it’s more than just a convenience. It is a necessity for people like us,” Sharon Shapiro-Lacks, a board member at the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID) told PBS News Hour.

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Several groups in New York City, including BCID and Disabled in Action, were prepared to gather outside a Starbucks in Union Square on Sunday after the annual Disability Pride Parade. But after speaking with Starbucks Global Director for Environment Rebecca Zimmer, the protest was cancelled.

Starbucks released a statement Friday saying stores will continue to offer straws for those who request them.

“Starbucks recent announcement about straws will not impact the ability of those who need straws to access them. We take an inclusive design approach to all packaging to ensure that all customers will be able to enjoy their Starbucks beverages,” the statement read.

But while Starbucks has acknowledged the activists’ concerns, Joseph Rappaport, executive director at BCID, told PBS they aren’t yet satisfied. “To be clear, they haven’t met our demands, but we’re hoping they will after continuing the conversation,” he said.

After this weekend’s phone call with Starbucks, Zimmer said it remained unclear whether the straws offered will be plastic, an important factor to those who need straws.

In an open letter posted to Facebook by the group Disability Rights Washington after Seattle’s decision to ban restaurants from giving out plastic straws and utensils unless requested, the organization touted the importance of plastic.

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“Other types of straws simply do not offer the combination of strength, flexibility, and safety that plastic straws do. Metal straws become hot or cold and offer a risk of injury. Some people…will bite through paper straws, and they dissolve if the person takes too long to drink, and so forth,” the post read.

Michelle Gant is a writer and editor for Fox News Lifestyle.