With their spouts and lids to avoid spills, coffee cups have long been the equivalent of sippy cups for adults. Now Starbucks is going all-in on the concept by vowing to eliminate straws by 2020—and it's all for a very good reason.
"This move is an answer to our own partners about what we can do to reduce the need for straws," says Colleen Chapman, vice president of Starbucks global social impact overseeing sustainability, in a media release. "Not using a straw is the best thing we can do for the environment."
In place of plastic straws, Starbucks plans to offer recyclable lids for all iced drinks and biodegradable paper straws for Frappuccinos. (The biodegradable straws will be available for other drinks upon request.) The transition is already taking place in Starbucks' hometown of Seattle, where a ban on plastic straws went into place on July 1. By rolling this out in all 28,000 of their stores by 2020, the company says they are annually eliminating more than one billion straws from going into circulation—and potentially the ocean.
"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," says Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program. "With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year, we cannot afford to let industry sit on the sidelines."
According to For a Strawless Ocean, marine life has a 50% mortality rate when it ingests plastic—yet researchers believe there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by the year 2050 if this rate of litter continues. That means there can be an immediate positive impact if we swap plastic straws for environmentally friendly alternatives.
The smart design on the sippy cup for cold beverages comes from Starbucks' in-house team of designers and has been in development for two years. However, the announcement comes as outcry increases over the dangers that plastic straws can pose to marine life. Other companies making the eco-friendly swap include Alaska Airlines, Hilton Hotels, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and even McDonalds, which announced plans last month to test alternatives to plastic straws last month.