Starbucks to Phase Out Plastic Straws by 2020 

On July 9, Starbucks made an announcement that may just change the way the world drinks coffee: by 2020, it will no longer use plastic straws in any of its stores across the globe. The company, which is the largest food and beverage chain to take the anti-plastic straw plunge worldwide so far, estimates the move will keep more than 1 billion pieces of single-use plastic out of the landfill every year.

"Sustainability is part of our DNA and has been so for 30-plus years," a Starbucks spokesperson told Boise Weekly. "... Over the last five years, our cold beverage platform has grown significantly to over 50 percent of sales, while the movement to eliminate plastic straws has also been gaining momentum globally. For these reasons, along with requests from our customers, partners and shareholders, we will develop a recyclable alternative to plastic straws: it’s the right thing for our environment, our partners (employees) and our business."

click to enlarge COURTESY STARBUCKS
  • Courtesy Starbucks
The announcement came on the heels of smaller commitments from other fast-food giants like McDonald's, which the BBC reported will replace plastic straws with paper in its stores in the UK and Ireland this fall, as well as grassroots advocacy for alternatives. One Starbucks employee, Stephanie Muttillo, started a petition for the elimination of plastic straws at the chain in April, which was electronically signed by nearly 150,000 people using the Care2 Petitions platform.

In a press release, Muttillo reacted to the Starbucks announcement, saying, “As a Starbucks employee, it's welcomed news to hear the company will phase out the use of plastic straws in their stores by 2020. This is an important first step to cleaning up our seas and protecting wildlife, and I am proud to see Starbucks take this step toward sustainability and promoting a healthier planet for all.”

To replace plastic straws, Starbucks has created a so-called "strawless lid," which looks much like the lid currently used for hot beverages, but made from clear rather than opaque plastic. The new recyclable lids are already being tested for a couple of drinks at 8,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada, and should be fully phased in by 2020. After the transition, paper or compostable straws will still be offered on request. 
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