Starbucks, citing environment, is ditching plastic straws

The world's largest coffeehouse chain, Starbucks, is ditching plastic straws in a bid to become more sustainable.

A patron holds an iced beverage with a straw, at a Starbucks coffee store in Pasadena, California, US, July 25, 2013. This decision will eliminate over 1 billion plastic straws and will drastically change the style and consumption of the company's cold drinks, which are responsible for more than half of Starbucks' beverage sales. McDonald's said in June it would start switching to paper straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland in September. Next up will be the rest of the U.S.in 2019 and, eventually, Europe. In lieu of the classic drinking straw, Starbucks said it will design alternative-material straw options and "a strawless lid".

The move echoes a trend of companies and cities attempting to move away from single-use plastic straws, which can be detrimental to the environment and take an estimated 450 years to decompose.

Starbucks said it plans to be completely free of its plastic straws by 2020 and will replace them with paper straws.

The first of the new and improved lids will roll out on all drinks this fall, starting with Starbucks stores in Vancouver and Seattle.

"There are several of these single-use items the public is realizing, hey, we don't actually need these", said Denise Hardesty, a scientist with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation who studies plastic pollution. Other companies and consumers are following the trend towards becoming more environmentally conscious.

"With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year, we can not afford to let industry sit on the sidelines", said Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program in a statement.

But plastic straws make up a relatively small proportion of overall ocean debris: Data from California's coastal cleanup day, for example, shows that straws account for just 4% of waste. The co-op grocery chain had eliminated plastic straws and utensils in 2015. The company says it's part of a $10-million commitment to develop fully recyclable and compostable cups.

As for the "strawless lids", Starbucks is already using them in about 8,000 select stores around North America.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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