It looks like the plastic straw may be going the way of the fax machine and fountain pen: Starbucks, the world’s biggest coffee seller, announced plans to nix straws at all of its stores by 2020. The chain, with more than 28,000 locations, is officially the largest food company in the world to make this promise, and has the power and influence to spur other restaurants of all sizes to follow in its footsteps. Starbucks estimates that this move will eliminate the use of 1 billion plastic straws per year.
Starbucks says it will replace plastic straws with paper or compostable plastic straws for blended drinks like Frappuccinos. These alternative straws will be available by request for customers who need or wish to use a straw. Otherwise, for cold brew, nitro, and other iced drinks, the coffee company will offer strawless lids, which it designed and manufactures. Already in use at more than 8,000 Starbucks stores, these lids look exactly like the tops to adult sippy cups, and, curiously are also made of plastic. Still, environmentalists seem to be supporting Starbucks’ move.
Plastic straws are kind of like a gateway plastic for every day citizens. As the founder of strawfree.org told the New York Times: “I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plastic problem … Giving up plastic straws is a small step, and an easy thing for people to get started on. From there, we can move on to larger projects.”
“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, Starbucks president and CEO, said in a release.
Seattle and Vancouver-area Starbucks locations will be the first to go straw-free.
The now-ubiquitous straw-free movement seemed to come out of nowhere earlier this year. McDonald’s in the UK announced earlier this year that it would switch from plastic to paper straws by this fall, but its U.S. counterpart has yet to follow suit. Meanwhile, metropolitan areas across the country, from Malibu to Seattle, have already passed straw bans, and cities like Berkeley and New York are facing similar proposed legislation. Earlier this summer Lettuce Entertain You, a restaurant group out of Chicago, also said it would cease use of plastic straws at 120 of its locations.
Per a release, Starbucks also says it’s still working on a fully recyclable and compostable hot cup. The company is spending $10 million on the initiative, which is in partnership with Closed Loop Partners, through the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge.