Disability Rights UK released a call to disabled people on social media in September 2023 to ask for examples of the plastics they need in their lives because of their disability. BDF’s Disability Network Leaders Forum – a forum for disabled leaders who chair the employee disability network in the organisation they work for – responded to this. The network leaders put the call out to their individual networks and BDF’s Head of Policy and Research held a discussion group with the leaders to collect and discuss the examples. BDF then submitted the below following to Disability Rights UK which will inform their work with Greenpeace UK on the plastics that are essential to disabled people.
- A lot of medical and personal care items are single use and non-recyclable. They often have to be to keep them sanitised and prevent contamination. The campaigning on this when the UK used millions of single use plastic covid tests and single use plastic gloves was much less, but it seems to be a problem when disabled people need similar things ongoingly.
- The messages in environment and climate campaigns are generally about “stopping” plastic or “banning” plastic completely. Surely the message should be about “reducing” and “minimising” instead.
- Access to alternatives to plastic are often a privilege. Sustainable packaging or suitable bamboo straws (for example) are more expensive, and then these add to the extra cost of being disabled. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) rates don’t account for sustainable alternatives to plastics.
- Disabled people have disability-specific ‘eco-anxiety’. We can see ourselves throwing away single use plastics every day but that are essential to us and, often, keep us alive.
- Plastic is strong. We often need equipment that takes our weight.
The plastics we need
- Colostomy bags
- Oxygen masks
- Pill dispensers
- Pill blister packs
- Syringes and cannulas
- Blood test lancets
- Sharps bins
- Kettle tippers (the metal ones are not as strong as safe)
- Wheelchair casing
- Grab rails in our homes
- Toilet frames
- Shower stall seats
- Inhalers (which changed from metal aerosol cannisters to plastic, because it was thought plastic was better for the environment at the time!)
- Straws – yes, they have to be plastic for some people! They need to bend, not weaken in fluid, and be gnaw-friendly!
- Adapted cutlery and beakers
- Tetrapod stick handles
- Non-stick plastics to steady plates and utensils when cooking
- Wipes with plastics in them (so that they are strong and can stand being caught in a ‘Parkinson’s grip’ and not split like the plastic-free ones often do)
- Adapted can and jar openers
- Lifting cushions, mattress protectors, and seat covers.
For more information, please contact BDF’s policy team at email@example.com