Among the many reasons why City Council should approve the proposed plastic waste reduction ordinance is the fact that plastic pollution is an environmental justice issue that disproportionately affects marginalized populations.
One group that is often left out of conversations around environmental justice is the disabled community, and single-use bans can have the unintended consequence of limiting access to a tool upon which some people with disabilities depend: the plastic straw. Many individuals with mobility and strength issues require plastic straws to live independently, and unfortunately, few if any of the eco-friendly alternatives are practical, safe and affordable for them.
To prevent Burbank’s plastic waste reduction ordinance from unintentionally falling victim to eco-ableism, people with disabilities must have a voice in its development and implementation.
For example, when setting disposable food ware standards for food and beverage providers, city staff should consult members of the disability community regarding which types of compostable or recyclable products they consider viable alternatives.
The city’s proposed single-use ordinance will help curb our overreliance on both plastic and the fossil fuels from which it is made, representing a significant step toward combatting climate change and promoting environmental justice. With careful planning and inclusive design, it can also be a policy that ensures accessibility and equity for all Burbank residents.
First published in the March 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.