The anti-plastic straw movement has been gaining momentum: with manufacturers such as Diageo, Bacardi and Pernod Ricard already pledging to ban their use in their operations.
Small chains and retail locations are getting the ball rolling by switching from plastic straws and utensils to recyclable ones, and several local governments have passed bans on the products.
Last week Seattle became the first major US city to ban plastic straws and utensils. Smaller towns like Berkeley and Oakland in California and Miami Beach have already gotten rid of plastic straws.
In April the UK outlined plans to eliminate plastic straws and drink stirrers, and McDonald’s plans to switch out its plastic straws for paper ones at all locations in the UK and Ireland later this year.
Starbucks released a detailed plan that explains what alternatives will be available for its cold drinks that traditionally come with plastic straws, like iced coffee, tea and frappuccinos.
The company revealed that cold beverages now account for more than 50% of its total drink sales, up from 37% just five years ago. Starbucks estimates that growth to continue, and that once the transition is complete it will eliminate one billion plastic straws per year.
The main option is a recyclable, strawless lid that acts somewhat like an adult ‘sippy cup’. It will be the standard for all iced coffee, tea and espresso beverages and is already being tested at more than 8,000 locations in the US and Canada.
‘A step in the right direction’ – Kate Melges, Plastics Campaigner at Greenpeace
“Starbucks is taking a step in the right direction by eliminating fossil fuel derived plastic straws, and is starting to further encourage the use of refillable containers with its new UK charges on paper cups. It’s great that a company of Starbucks’ size is acknowledging the plastic pollution crisis and that corporations must reduce their production of plastic immediately. But the company must do more to tackle its massive plastic footprint globally and innovate away from its reliance on disposable plastics. We’ll never recycle our way out of the plastics crisis we’re facing, so while eliminating petroleum plastic straws is a positive development, the company should not simply replace them with another throwaway item or material.”
Starbucks will sell frappuccinos with straws made from paper or compostable plastic, and they will also be available on request for other beverages.
Seattle and Vancouver will be the first cities to see the permanent change this fall, with the rest of the US and Canada, France, the Netherlands and the UK to follow.
Kevin Johnson, president and chief executive officer for Starbucks, said “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.”
The move could inspire a significant domino effect among other major retailers and local governments, encouraging them to follow suit. Cutting back on single-use plastic, like plastic straws, utensils and bags, is necessary to curb the overwhelming ocean pollution that threatens marine life.
Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program, said: “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.”