Starbucks Is Going Straw-Free by 2020

Soon we’ll all be drinking iced coffee out of sippy cups and feeling virtuous.

Soon we’ll all be drinking iced coffee out of sippy cups and feeling virtuous.

Your days of sipping your iced coffee through a plastic straw may be numbered. Starbucks announced this week that it plans to do away with single-use plastic straws at all its locations worldwide by 2020, offering customers instead either a strawless lid or straw made from an alternative material to drink through, depending on the beverage.

According to the coffee giant, the environmental-sustainability-motivated switch — part of Starbucks’ $10 million initiative to embrace recyclable, compostable solutions — will eliminate the use of more than 1 billion plastic straws per year.

"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,” Kevin Johnson, president and chief executive officer for Starbucks, said in a press release.

The move has been propelled, in part, by the growing consumer demand for cold beverages, which now account for more than 50 percent of all beverages sold at Starbucks in the United States; five years ago, cold beverages made up only 37 percent of Starbucks drink sales. It was hailed by environmental groups.

"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,” Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program, commented. "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.”

Erin Simon, director of sustainability research & development and material science at World Wildlife Fund, U.S., which has partnered with Starbucks on several material waste-reduction initiatives, called Starbucks’ effort to eliminate plastic straws "forward thinking” and said the organization hoped other companies would follow its lead.

"Plastic straws that end up in our oceans have a devastating effect on species," he noted.

The new strawless lids, already available for beverages like the Draft Nitro and Cold Foam in more than 8,000 Starbucks locales in the United States and Canada, will become standard on iced coffee, tea and espresso drinks starting this fall, starting at Seattle and Vancouver locations and rolling out more widely in the United States and Canada in 2019. A broader global extension will follow.

For Frappuccinos, which don’t lend themselves to sippy tops, Starbucks is planning to offer paper or compostable plastic straws; those options will also be available by request with other beverage orders.

Those worried that life without single-use plastic straws will suck, may see things a bit differently after watching this video of a sea turtle with one stuck in its nostril.

Wow. Yeah, bring on the compostable or reusable, eco-friendly bamboo, straw, paper, steel or glass alternatives — or embrace that sippy cup. We’re all in.

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

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