Starbucks Plans to Eliminate Plastic Straws Globally by 2020
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – 10 July, 2018
The Starbucks Coffee Company announced it would eliminate single-use plastic straws from its more than 28,000 company-operated and licensed stores by making a strawless lid or by providing alternative-material straw options, around the world. Starbucks anticipates the move will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year from Starbucks stores, according to the company statement.
Starbucks has designed, developed and manufactured a strawless lid, which will become the standard for all iced coffee, tea, and espresso beverages. The lid is currently available in more than 8,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada for select beverages. The lid is clearly made from plastic.
In addition, Starbucks will offer straws made from alternative materials including paper or compostable plastic, for those who prefer or need a straw.
“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 Kevin Johnson, president and chief executive officer for Starbucks.
The pilot cities for the strawless lids will be Seattle and Vancouver. The U.S. and Canada rollouts will follow in 2019.
“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,” said 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 NextGen 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.
As Reuters reported, rival McDonald's Corp, the world's largest restaurant chain, announced plans to transition to paper straws at its UK and Ireland restaurants, beginning in September with completion in 2019.
The McDonald's decision does not extend to its other global restaurants, however. A proposal to investigate the impact of plastic straws at its 37,000 worldwide restaurants, what would have been a step towards phasing out plastic straws, was shot down by shareholders in May.
The U.N. Environment Programme estimates that some 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year - the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck full of plastic every minute - killing birds and marine life and compromising the ocean's ecosystem.
Plastic straws represent a comparatively small amount of all plastic waste. However, they are more difficult to recycle than other plastic items.
Dylan de Thomas, vice president of industry collaboration at The Recycling Partnership, said that curbside recycling programs in the United States don't typically accept straws. Even for those consumers who recycle plastic items, a straw is so small it can be difficult to sort.
"It's really thin. It's really small. It's really light. So it's really challenging in our existing sortation system to be able to sort it out," he said.
In contrast, paper straws are often compostable. When disposed of in a landfill, paper straws decompose at a much faster rate than plastic ones.
In 2017 there were about 63 billion straws used in the United States per year, around 170-175 million straws used per day, according to data provided by Technomic.
As we reported earlier, Starbucks conducted an anti-race-bias course for its employees. With the addition of Andrew Korybko's opinion, who believes Starbucks is sacrificing itself on the altar of “political correctness.” The chain came under fire after two black men were arrested for trespassing at a Starbucks restroom in Philadelphia in April. The manager called the police, but no charges were filed.
Very possibly, the anti-plastic-straw measures are just a maneuver to distract attention from the crisis that the company faced after April.