Disney is referring to the straw ban as the “next step in its commitment to environmental stewardship.” It says the move will eliminate more than 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers every year.
Disney has also announced other plastic-reduction plans. In Disney hotels and on cruise ships, it will transition to refillable in-room amenities and also work to replace plastic shopping bags in its parks with reusable ones.
“Eliminating plastic straws and other plastic items are meaningful steps in our long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products.
“These new global efforts help reduce our environmental footprint, and advance our long-term sustainability goals.”
The announcement did not mention any planned replacements for the plastic straws. In contrast, Starbucks’ straw ban announcement earlier this month detailed new cup lids that won’t require the use of straws, as well as the introduction of paper straws.
The recent popularity of plastic straw bans has won praise from environmental advocacy groups, but also criticism from accessibility advocates. Many disabled people rely on positionable, single-use plastic straws and are unable to use the replacements offered, if any.
Erin Vallely of the Center for Disability Rights said, "For many individuals with mobility and strength issues, they cannot lift cups high enough to drink from them. Some individuals with poor motor coordination cannot safely hold a drink steady without spilling it. Certain medicines must also be taken via straw. Bendable plastic straws allow individuals to nourish themselves and avoid spilling things on themselves, and others."
Accessibility advocates are calling for these plastic straw bans to be flexible and not so absolute. After Seattle became the first major US city to institute a ban this month, a spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities found that more than a dozen Seattle restaurant chains didn’t have a reserve of plastic straws on hand for those with disabilities, even though the law includes a waiver allowing it.
Disney says it creates inclusive and accessible spaces for people with disabilities at all of its theme parks. The Walt Disney World website includes extensive FAQ boards regarding all aspects of accommodating disabled people when traveling to the parks, around the parks, on the rides and at hotels, but includes no mention of assistance with eating and drinking.