Starbucks, one of the world’s largest coffee chains, will phase out plastic straws by 2020. The move toward alternative lids, called "adult sippy cups", will eliminate approximately a billion straws per year as it progressively removes them from circulation. The only exception to the move will be Frappucinos which will be served with straws made from sustainable materials.
Vancouver and Seattle will be among the first cities to convert to straw-less lids this fall with remaining locations in North America to follow by next year. By 2020, all of its 28,000 locations will be without the familiar green straws. For those who would rather not use the strawless-lids, however, they will be able to ask for the compostable straws.
It is anticipated that this move will put pressure on several other major corporations. For instance, McDonald’s is planning to use alternative packaging for many of its foods and beverages by 2025.
Reportedly, at this stage, plastic waste accumulates in our waters globally at about nine million tons per year. Plastic straws make up about 2,000 tons of this annual total. Thus, though this is a good first step, there is still a great deal of work to do in controlling the amount of waste we create.
This isn't Starbucks' first foray into sustainability. The coffee chain has been selling reusable cups since 2014. In order to encourage customers to buy these reusable cups, Starbucks is charging a fee for using a non-recyclable cup at its London stores. This move is expected to extend to all of the UK locations this July. Plus, Starbucks is inviting their customers to bring their own cups. Finally, the coffee giant has invested 10 million dollars in the NextGen Cup Challenge which is attempting to create sustainable hot drink cups.
The issue of plastic, single-use straws has been coming up more and more often in boardrooms. This is partially due to increased public awareness of the dangers of pollution. Certain municipalities, such as San Diego, are starting to ban the usage of single-use plastic straws. Though, this doesn't seem to bother every company as McDonald's shareholders voted against conducting a study on the impacts of single-use straws this past May.