Starbucks, citing environment, is ditching plastic straws

Christopher Davidson
July 11, 2018

For customers like Sarah Martincic of Oley Township, the new strawless lids are a convenient solution to a pressing problem.

The custom lids will also be introduced in the United Kingdom, just as the market expands its £0.05 (US$0.07) paper cup charge to 950 stores.

That's right all plastic straws will be completely eliminated from Starbucks stores very soon, the company wants to get rid of them all by the year 2020.

Environmental activists have been pressuring businesses to ditch plastic straws because they can end up in the ocean and hurt marine life. Frappuccino drinks will continue to be served with dome lids that require straws, but the straws themselves will no longer be plastic ones but alternatives made from paper or special compostable plastic.

Starbucks - which is replacing straws with a proprietary, recyclable alternative plastic lid that looks and functions like a sippy cup - took the opportunity to pat itself on the back and declare the moment a fine example of corporate responsibility.

Starbucks says customers will first notice the change in its Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia-based stores before "phased rollouts" across the rest of the USA and Canada.

The decision was motivated by requests from partners and customers, said Colleen Chapman, vice-president of Starbucks' global social impact in a statement.

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But many consumers have criticised use of a plastic sipping lid as the replacement for straws.

The changes are expected to start being implemented in the fall.

Starting in 2020, Starbucks plans to wipe out all of the plastic straws from its 28,000 worldwide stores in order to contribute to the universal effort to "go green". Straws are lower-hanging fruit in the battle against plastic, but hopefully it provides the motivation Starbucks needs to keep fighting in all the ways that count.

A number of local governments have recently passed legislation restricting the use and distribution of plastic straws. Alaska Airlines said in May that it's phasing out the use of plastic stirrers and straws in its drinks after receiving a call to action from an environmentally-concerned Girl Scout.

Unfortunately, Chapman added, "Not using a straw is the best thing we can do for the environment".

By not automatically offering straws with drinks, Starbucks estimates it will save a billion straws a year.

"There are several of these single-use items the public is realising, hey, we don't actually need these", said Denise Hardesty, a scientist with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation who studies plastic pollution.

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