Starbucks, the wide-spread and well-known global coffee company is set to remove all plastic straws from their more than 29,000 stores by next year. To replace the current single-use cup and straw combo, a new lid that resembles a toddler’s sippy cup will be employed. While straws must be discarded as waste, the new lids can be more easily recycled.
This change will result in the reduction of one billion straws not being used in their stores in 2020 alone, which is a massive reduction in plastic waste. Starbucks has allocated $10 million to invest in creating recyclable and compostable cups for all global locations. They are paving the way and setting an example for other large-scale companies on measures that can be taken toward sustainable practices.
The action of removing all straws from stores does not come as a shock for a company known to be progressive and set positive examples within the industry. Last year, Starbucks set a new precedent when they closed all US stores on May 29, 2018 for all employees to attend a mandated racial bias training. This resulted in more than 179,000 employees receiving training on how their beliefs, notions, thoughts, and obliviousness to race affected the way they treated those they came in contact with.
Not everyone agrees that the removal of straws from stores deserves all the praise that the announcement received. The change was released in July of 2018 and is not set to fully be integrated into all stores until 2020. Many think that positive change needs to happen now to take care of the planet that we as humans have damaged through wasteful and poisonous practices. If we want to make real change, each baby step cannot take one and a half years to set into action. Additionally, most have heard the phrase, “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” Although the new lids will be recyclable when compared to their waste-bound straw counterparts, we should be putting more of an emphasis on “Reduce” and “Reuse” instead. Even though the cups are capable of being recycled, it is still possible that they may not make it into the recycling and be discarded as waste instead. If the cups are recycled, there is still the chance that the recycled materials are not being used to create new items because most high-income countries ship their waste to less financially-stable countries.
Others believe the removal of straws is part of a PR stunt by the coffee-giant. Concerns for the environment are overshadowed by Starbucks hopping on the bandwagon with those that think that caring about the well-being of the earth is a “trend.” This new direction may relate to the correlation that has been created by society between reducing straw use and saving sea turtles. If you are living in the midwest, 650 miles from the closest ocean, choosing not to use a straw doesn’t save any sea turtles.
Change in such a large company requires babysteps, and this reduction in use brings Starbucks one step closer to an environmentally sustainable business model. Their focus on supplying fully sustainable coffee cups is a commendable act, but time should not be wasted when making positive environmental change.