Starbucks announced plans to phase plastic straws from its stores worldwide by 2020. The decision is expected to eliminate more than 1 billion straws from the company’s 28,000 stores annually. A new recyclable lid will replace straws and become standard for most of Starbucks’ iced drinks.
Eliminating straws came in response to requests from Starbucks’ partners and customers. “By nature, the straw isn’t recyclable and the lid is, so we feel this decision is more sustainable and more socially responsible,” said Chris Milne, director of packaging sourcing for Starbucks.
Emily Alexander and her Global Research & Development team at Starbucks began working on the lid design in 2016 as a way to feature the Draft Nitro and Cold Foam beverages. What emerged is a recyclable polypropylene lid that has a teardrop shaped opening about the size of a thumbprint.
“From their debut in one initial store, the cold-cup lids now are used for a small number of drinks including Draft Nitro and Cold Foam in more than 8,000 stores in the US and Canada,” Starbucks said. “They will become the standard lid for all iced drinks except Frappuccino, which will be served with a straw made from paper or PLA compostable plastic manufactured from fermented plant starch or other sustainable material.”
Developing a recyclable alternative to plastic straws is key for the company. Five years ago, cold beverages comprised 37% of sales, but by 2017 that figure had jumped to more than 50%, Starbucks reported.
Beyond eliminating straws, the company has invested $10 million in the NextGen Cup Challenge, an industry consortium that aims to develop a fully recyclable and compostable hot cup. They are also encouraging customers to “bring your own tumbler” in an effort to reduce waste.
Starbucks is the latest chain to announce a plastic straw phase-out. Last month McDonald’s said they plan to switch from plastic straws to paper ones next year in UK and Ireland restaurants, and the company will begin piloting alternatives to plastic straws in several other countries later this year.