Living up to its green logo, Starbucks has decided to do away with plastic straws from all of its locations within two years, starting with Vancouver and Seattle, in an effort to support conservation of the oceans, which are being overrun by plastic waste.
“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 of Starbucks.
This step will make Starbucks the largest food and beverage company to eliminate plastic straws. The move comes a week after Seattle banned plastic drinking straws and utensils. By 2020, the company hopes to only use straws, as well as lids, made from biodegradable materials like paper.
“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,” said Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program. “With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year, we cannot afford to let industry sit on the sidelines.”
Strawless lids will first appear in Seattle and Vancouver Starbucks locations this fall and will be rolled-out across the U.S. and Canada next year, followed by an international implementation. Starbucks has taken the lead on the issue as companies across the globe begin to discuss alternatives to plastic.
In February, Dunkin' Donuts said that it would get rid of polystyrene foam cups by 2020, and McDonald's announced that it would switch to paper straws in the UK and Ireland in 2019. It also hopes to test alternatives to plastic straws at some US locations. The company has pledged to only use recycled or other environmentally friendly materials for its cups, Happy Meal boxes and other packaging by 2025.
Officials in the UK announced a plan to ban the sale of single-use plastics, including straws, by next year. “The first step as part of this commitment will be rolling out biodegradable drinking straws in September 2018,” a Burger King spokesperson said in response to the UK initiative.
“Suppliers of straws made of paper, wood and other compostable materials are positioning themselves to capitalize on the opportunity,” said Tony Uphoff, president, and CEO of Thomas, a data company for industrial manufacturers.
Despite these strong measures against straws, they only account for four percent of plastic trash by number of pieces and much less by weight. Straws add 2,000 tons to the nearly nine million tons of plastic that end up in the ocean each year.