Starbucks announced Monday that it will stop using plastic straws globally by 2020, instead either offering straws made from other materials or lids that can be used without straws, according to CNN. Starbucks says the move will eliminate 1 billon straws each year. The decision comes amid mounting public concern over the dangers of plastic pollution, which is harmful to ocean ecosystems, marine life, and the human populations that depend on those food chains.
McDonalds recently announced it would start using paper straws in the UK and Ireland next year, testing plastic alternatives in some US locations, and Dunkin Donuts said it would stop using polystyrene cups by 2020. Some governments have also started enacting bans against single use plastic products. A ban took effect in Seattle last week, with similar plans in consideration by New York, San Francisco, and other cities. A UK proposal in April suggested a ban on plastic straws, and the European Union is considering a wider ban on single-use plastic items.
According to the UK government, 1 million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals are killed each year, as a result of eating or getting caught in plastic waste.
Although plastic straws have been the focus of public outcry, they actually represent just 4% of individual pieces of plastic waste. They make up about 2,000 tons of the 9 million tons of plastic waste that end up in bodies of water every year.
However, in 2015, a video went viral graphically showing the process of removing a straw from a sea turtle’s nose, and they have been a lightning rod for public criticism since then.
Strawless lids will be made available starting this fall at Starbucks locations in Seattle and Vancouver, ahead of a larger rollout in the rest of the US. The company will replace the flat plastic lids that require straws, with lids that have a raised lip to drink from, not unlike the lids already used for hot drinks. Frappuccinos will still be served with a domed lid and straw, but paper straws will replace the current plastic ones.
CEO Kevin Johnson called the move a “significant milestone” in the company’s efforts to become more sustainable. Starbucks has also pledged $10 million towards the development of recyclable, compostable cups for hot drinks.
According to a statement from the World Wildlife Fund’s director of sustainability research & development and material science, Erin Simon:
“Plastic straws that end up in our oceans have a devastating effect on species. We hope others will follow in [Starbucks’] footsteps.”