Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Starbucks to phase out single-use plastic straws for sippy cups, alternatives

On Monday, the coffee giant became the latest company to denounce single-use plastic straws, revealing plans to ban them entirely from its stores worldwide by 2020.

The decision is highly impactful; the company has more than 28,000 locations across the world and the move to eliminate straws will result in more than one billion fewer straws being produced every year.

Partly in response to changing municipal regulations and partly due to growing consumer pressure, the issue is coming up in company boardrooms. The new versions will also be available with other drinks upon request for those who prefer or need to use straws.

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In a statement, CEO Kevin Johnson called the move away from plastic straws a "significant milestone" in the company's sustainability efforts.

"The lid is now available in more than 8,000 stores in the US and Canada for select beverages including Starbucks Draft Nitro and Cold Foam". The strawless lid for Starbucks's iced beverages is not unlike the standard hot coffee cup lid caffeine drinkers are already familiar with. Just last week Seattle banned both plastic straws and utensils.

While plastic pollution has always been the target of environmental groups, the impact of straws on marine life has recently moved to the centre of plastic-banning efforts. Straws add up to about 2000 tonnes of the almost 9 million tons of plastic waste that ends up in waters around the globe each year. On July 1, Seattle became the first US city to ban plastic straws, spoons, forks and knives.

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In the United Kingdom, the company has also placed taxes on paper cups, and worldwide, Starbucks offers a discount for customers who use reusable cups.

The European Commission has proposed new rules that would ban the 10 biggest plastic pollutants found on Europe's beaches and in European waters, including plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, stir sticks and balloon sticks. The transition will be complete in 2019, the company said. She says the campaign started in Toronto and was picked up across the country.

The store will automatically offer cold drinks with the new sipping lid, but for "frappuccinos", a coffee mixed with ice, the store will offer paper straws or ones made of a compostable plastic based on fermented plant starch.

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