Starbucks has announced that it will phase out single-use plastic straws by 2020, a move which the company estimates will eliminate more than 1 billion plastic straws every year. Straws will be replaced by plastic-lidded ‘sippy cups’, while paper straws will be available for frappuccinos and disabled patrons who require them.
“This is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee, served to our customers in more sustainable ways,” said Starbucks Kevin Johnson CEO. The move is particularly fitting considering Seattle, the home of Starbucks, was the first city in the US to impose a city-wide ban on single use straws.
While the move was widely praised by the World Wildlife Fund and Ocean Conservancy, the alternative ‘sippy cup’ lids actually use more plastic than the existing straw-lid combination. Currently the average Starbucks drink comes with between 3.23 and 3.55 grams of plastic, depending on a small or large straw. The new lids will weigh 3.55 grams or 4.11 grams, meaning that total plastic consumption from Starbucks will actually increase.
Starbucks countered these claims by arguing that “the introduction of our strawless lid as the standard for non-blended beverages by 2020 allows us to significantly reduce the number of straws and non-recyclable plastic,” as the current lids and straws and non-recyclable. This should be cold comfort for plastic opponents as it relies on the Starbucks customer to make sure that they actually recycle the lid, which is far from guaranteed.