Here's how Starbucks could eliminate 1 billion plastic straws a year

 by Colleen de Bellefonds

Starbucks promises to get rid of plastic straws by 2020. The company has already introduced a strawless lid for its cold beverages and draft nitro. This decision could play a significant role in preventing plastic from entering the ocean.

Starbucks just joined the growing movement to nix plastic straws, promising to get rid of the now-controversial drinking accessory by 2020. The company estimates that could mean a billion fewer plastic straws ending up in our landfills and waterways.

This week, Starbucks announced it's already developed and manufactured a strawless lid — which looks like a hot coffee lid or sippy cup — for most of its chilled beverages. The lid is already available in 8,000 stores across the United States and Canada for its Draft Nitro and Cold Foam beverages. For beverages like the Frappuccino, Starbucks will begin offering alternatives to plastic straws, including paper or compostable plastic straws, upon customer request.

"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 CEO of Starbucks, in the statement.

Seattle and Vancouver will be the first cities to transition away from plastic straws this fall, with the rollout across the United States and Canada continuing in 2019. Worldwide rollouts will follow, beginning with France, the Netherlands and the U.K. All of the company's 28,000 operated and licensed stores around the world will make the switch within the next two years.

By National Park Service estimates, Americans toss an estimated 500 million single-use plastic straws daily. Plastic — including plastic straws — doesn't degrade over time, which results in a whole lot of waste accumulating in our environment.

Every year, 79 percent of the plastic trash we generate ends up in landfills and out in the environment, according to a 2017 study from the journal Science Advances. And by United Nations estimates, that means more than 6 million tons of plastic trash ends up in the oceans. All the refuse results in the deaths of 1 million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles that eat the plastic they find or get trapped in it, says the Whale and Dolphin Conservancy.

"Plastics have been found in every corner of the ocean, affecting more than 800 species of ocean wildlife, from the smallest zooplankton to the largest whales," Nick Mallos, director of the Ocean Conservancy's Fighting for Trash Free Seas program, tells LIVESTRONG.COM.

Reactions on Twitter to Starbucks' plan were mostly positive:

Although some brought up concerns around accessibility for the disabled:

Starbucks' move comes after McDonald's announced this May that it would be keeping plastic straws at its American stores. Despite the company suggesting it would make a similar ban this January, shareholders voted against getting rid of plastic straws, claiming that it would work against the company's pledge to make all of its packaging from renewable, recyclable or certified materials by 2025.

But it and other global companies may be forced to comply. In May of this year, European Union officials announced they will introduce a total ban on plastic cutlery and straws by the year 2030, and already a number of businesses with branches in Europe and the U.K. (including Pizza Express, the British grocery chain Waitrose and even McDonald's in the U.K.) have all pledged to ban straws.

In the U.S., several cities — among them Seattle and Miami Beach — have banned plastic straws. And companies including Hilton hotels and Carnival cruises have taken the initiative to switch from single-use plastic straws at their locations in the United States.

"We believe industry has an important role to play and that product innovation will be key, and Starbucks' move to phase out plastic straws is a shining example of both," Mallos tells LIVESTRONG.COM. "While more needs to be done to prevent plastic from entering the ocean, we hope other beverage providers follow Starbucks' lead."

Read more: Scientists Are Engineering an Enzyme That Eats Plastic Waste

What Do YOU Think?

Are you happy about Starbucks' plan to get rid of plastic straws? Do you use plastic straws in your daily life? What do you do to prevent waste from ending up in our environment? Let us know in the comments below!


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