The Last Plastic Straw: Starbucks Strawless Lids Aim to Protect Oceans


Starbucks new lid alternative to plastic straws

Seemingly a small change, such as the decision to stop using one piece of packaging, could have environmental repercussions that will be felt now and for generations. Take the plastic straw. More than 500 million are used every day in America alone. As the non-profit For a Strawless Ocean notes, if companies aren’t brave enough to ban straws, by the year 2050 “there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

So it matters when brands, particularly global brands, decide they’ve reached their last plastic straw—and it’s time to “stop sucking.” McDonald’s announced last month that it’s replacing plastic straws with paper straws as part of its bigger commitment to have 100% of its packaging come from “renewable, recycled, or certified” sources by 2025.

Other U.S. plastic straw bans have been implemented by the White Sox baseball team, food service provider Bon Appétit Management Company and Alaska Airlines.

Starbucks strawless lid alternative to plastic straws

Now Starbucks has confirmed that it will replace plastic straws globally with a new recyclable strawless lid and alternative-material straw options by 2020. According to its press release, “Starbucks, the largest food and beverage retailer to make such a global commitment, anticipates the move will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year” from its more than 28,000 operated and licensed stores stores.

The company says it will introduce these lids in Seattle and Vancouver this fall, and continue with the rollout in the US and Canada next year, and eventually taking them global. The move builds upon a $10M commitment by Starbucks to develop a fully recyclable and compostable global cup solution and marks a significant milestone in the company’s thirty-year history in sustainable innovations.

Starbucks strawless lid alternative to plastic straws

“For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee, served to our customers in more sustainable ways,” said Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson in a press release.

The NGO community approves. “Starbucks goal to eliminate plastic straws by 2020 from their stores globally represents the company’s forward thinking in tackling the material waste challenge in totality,” stated Erin Simon, director of sustainability research & development and material science at World Wildlife Fund, U.S. “Plastic straws that end up in our oceans have a devastating effect on species. As we partner with Starbucks in waste reduction initiatives such as Next Gen Consortium Cup Challenge and WWF’s Cascading Materials Vision, we hope others will follow in their footsteps.”

“Starbucks’ decision to phase out single-use plastic straws is a shining example of the important role that companies can play in stemming the tide of ocean plastic. With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year, we cannot afford to let industry sit on the sidelines, and we are grateful for Starbucks leadership in this space,” said Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program.

Starbucks has a 30-year track record of focusing on sustainability across all aspects of its business, including achieving 99 percent ethically-sourced coffee. In addition to today’s announcement, Starbucks has previously committed $10 million to develop and help bring to market, a fully recyclable and compostable hot cup, in partnership with Closed Loop Partners, through the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge.

Seattle, its global HQ, became the first major US city with a plastic straw ban on July 1. New York City has proposed legislation to ban plastic straws in the city by 2020. Other U.S. cities including Malibu, San Luis Obispo, Miami Beach and Fort Myers have similar efforts in the works.

As for celebrity support for the anti-plastic straw movement, Chelsea Clinton, Neil Degrasse Tyson, Russell Crowe, Tom Brady, Sonam Kapoor, and Tom Felton have all pledged to “just say no” when handed a plastic straw.

As Vox commented, banning plastic straws won’t save the ocean—but we should do it anyway. So what will be the next brand, big or small, to decide that it’s reached the last straw and it’s time to stop sucking?