Starbucks Says Goodbye To Plastic Straws — And Hello To Cleaner Oceans

The tide is turning.

On Monday, Starbucks announced that it will stop using plastic straws in its stores by 2020. 

The company says it uses one billion plastic straws annually, but plans on stopping the use of plastic straws in each of its 28,000 stores across the globe. Starbucks' announcement comes just a week after Seattle, the city where the first Starbucks opened, banned plastic straws. 

"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, president and chief executive officer for Starbucks, said in a statement released by the company.  

An example of the new strawless lids. 
An example of the new strawless lids.  Starbucks

Starbucks has developed a new lid for some of its signature drinks like iced coffee and tea that does not require a straw. Instead, the lids have a raised lip. Some have compared the new lids to "adult sippy cups," CNN Business reported

For decades, Starbucks has positioned itself as a company that cares about sustainability and the environment. In recent years, awareness about the effect plastic is having on the environment — in particular, the ocean — has caused scientists to sound the alarm about a need to curb the use of plastics. Last week, A Plus reported on the all-female eXXpedition crew currently sailing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch who is testing the chemicals left by plastics in the ocean. 

During an interview with A Plus, eXXpedition co-founder Emily Penn said cleaning the oceans of plastics would be nearly impossible. Instead, she insisted, we should focus on reducing plastic consumption and pollution on the mainland. 

"What we realize is it's these billions of little micro-actions — one man's toothbrush, one lady's comb, and that's what causes the problem," Penn said. "But the optimism here is that's all we need to solve it as well. We need billions of small actions, just tiny little things every day to reduce consumption."

Customers who still want to enjoy a Starbucks drink with a straw will be able to request one, but it won't be plastic. Instead, they will be given a compostable straw made from paper or eco-friendly plastic. Seattle will be the first American city to see the change coming, with the new lids and compostable straws debuting there this fall.

In May, McDonald's said it will transition from the use of plastic to paper straws in Ireland and the United Kingdom. The announcement from Starbucks could be a sign that the tide is turning amongst large chain restaurants. 

"Starbucks decision to phase out single-use plastic straws is a shining example of the important role that companies can play in stemming the tide of ocean plastic," Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program, said in a Starbucks press release. "With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year, we cannot afford to let industry sit on the sidelines, and we are grateful for Starbucks leadership in this space."

Cover images via TY Lim / Shutterstock.com and  Shane Myers Photography / Shutterstock.

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