The proposed statewide ban on single-use plastic straws had a committe hearing on Jan. 24, and students from the Eastside — including some from Lake Washington High School who convinced their local legislator to sponsor the legislation and the elementary-age “Straw Kids” — traveled to Olympia to testify on its behalf.
The bill, SB 5077, is sponsored by state Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), who represents the 48th district. On Feb. 15, her bill was passed from the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology committee to the Rules committee for a second reading.
“It’s not going to be the silver bullet solution to all plastic pollution by any means,” Kuderer told the Reporter in previous coverage. “But this is a very good start while we continue focusing and discussing on ways to deal with the larger issue of plastic bags and other plastics that are in our oceans and waters.”
Kuderer said she got the idea from Lake Washington’s AP government class, but was concerned about its impact on people with disabilities, “who really need these straws because of medical conditions.” Still, she said “the trade off for the environment is really quite significant.”
The “Straw Kids” — Megan O’Reilly, Becky Hinckley, Kaileigh Peterson and Cora Batterberry, who are in fourth and fifth grade at Community School in Kirkland, with Geneva Betnel of Shoreline — are concerned about the large amounts of plastic that end up in the ocean, polluting the water and killing wildlife.
They have spoken to city councils in Redmond, Kirkland, Shoreline and Edmonds. They also met Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the March for Science in 2018. See www.strawkids.com for more.
State Sen. Guy Palumbo (D-Maltby), who is co-sponsoring SB 5077, wrote on Twitter that the girls had the “Best. Testimony. Ever!!!!”
Best. Testimony. Ever!!!! From the “Straw Kids” here testifying for @senpattykuderer ‘s bill to ban plastic straws. #plasticpollution pic.twitter.com/JaEH4u0Ih3
— Guy (@SenatorPalumbo) January 24, 2019
But not all of the testimony was in support of the ban.
Shaun Bickley, a communications specialist for disability rights group The Arc of King County, spoke about 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.”
Environment, Energy and Technology committee chair Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) said Kuderer had requested an early hearing date to open up conversations with the disability community.
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.
“The bill was attempting to balance the need to help our environment and also to not cause unintended consequences to those who really need these straws because of medical conditions,” Kuderer said.
The bill was amended to note that “in recognition that a straw is an adaptive utensil that may provide basic accommodation for persons with disabilities to eat and drink, a food service establishment must provide a single-use plastic straw upon request to persons with disabilities.”
Emma Scher of the WNPA Olympic News Bureau contributed to this report.