Starbucks Leads the Way in Corporate Phase-Out of Plastic Straws

'No Use' symbol with plastic straws.

On July 9, Starbucks announced that it would phase out single-use plastic straws in all of its 28,000 global locations by 2020, instead making use of recyclable “strawless lids,” which comprise what some have dubbed “adult sippy cups,” and biodegradable straws. In about 8,000 locations across the United States and Canada, the strawless lids are already in use for certain cold drinks, such as the “draft nitro.”

As cold drinks have increased in popularity over the years, with 50% of Starbucks sales stemming from these beverages in 2017 — a 13% increase from five years prior — plastic straw use has increased as well. The company says that this new initiative, part of Starbucks’ $10 million investment in developing recyclable and compostable cups, could result in a billion fewer plastic straws from Starbucks locations every year.

The Global Push to Eradicate Plastic Straws

This initiative comes on the tails of the global consumer push to eradicate plastic straws, which are rarely recyclable and often end up in the ocean, where they’re consumed by marine animals and fish. In fact, plastic straws are on the top-ten list of most common ocean trash, and they take up to 200 years to decompose. Every year, 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic.

The movement to eradicate plastic waste has picked up speed in recent years, with California banning plastic bags in 2017, joining a number of countries, including Rwanda, Macedonia, and China. San Francisco has banned polystyrene, including packaging peanuts and Styrofoam cups. And in New York City, a bill has been introduced that would ban single-use plastic straws and beverage stirrers. Studies show that the United States alone uses 500 million straws every day.

Sourcing trends predicted this shift would soon expand to other sizeable corporations weeks before official announcements started surfacing. McDonald’s, for instance, announced in June that it would begin phasing out plastic straws in about 1,300 locations across Ireland and the United Kingdom. Other companies implementing or planning to implement plastic straw bans include:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Bon Appétit
  • Hyatt
  • Royal Caribbean
  • SeaWorld Entertainment

Creating a Cleaner, Greener World

As consumers increasingly seek out more eco-friendly, sustainable options and look to support companies that show a commitment to sustainability, the push to eliminate plastic straws is sure to continue.

Straws make up a fraction of the eight million tons of plastic waste that end up in oceans every year. But for many individuals and activist organizations, focusing on this issue — one that is easier for everyday consumers to rally behind and can serve as a catalyst for exploring the larger, more overarching environmental issues — may prove a valuable starting point. And with a corporate giant like Starbucks taking steps to reduce their plastic waste, other companies may be more inclined to follow suit.


Image Credit: Kanittha Boon/

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