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Starbucks to eliminate plastic straws by 2020

The coffee chain joins other companies that are seeking to curb plastic pollution

Photo (c) melmedia - Getty Images
Starbucks announced on Monday that it intends to phase out plastic straws at all of its stores. The transition from straws to recyclable plastic lids with a raised lip is expected to be completed by 2020.

The initiative will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year, the company said.

"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," said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson.

Strawless lids

A strawless lid, designed and manufactured by the company, will take the place of plastic straws in all of the coffee giant’s iced beverages. The new lids -- which have drawn comparisons to “adult sippy cups” -- will be introduced to stores in Seattle and Vancouver this fall; they will be rolled out gradually to additional locations in the U.S. and Canada next year.  

The chain’s Frappuccino beverages will still come with dome lids, but with straws made from more environmentally friendly materials. Straws made of paper or compostable plastic will be available to customers who need or prefer one, but only upon request.

Seattle, where Starbucks is headquartered, recently banned plastic straws and utensils at all of its bars and restaurants. Starbucks said it has poured more than $10 million into developing recyclable, compostable cups for its hot beverages.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s announced that it would start phasing out straws in 1,300 of its U.K. restaurants and replacing them with paper straws. The company announced in June that it plans to test the use of paper straws at select U.S. locations later this year.

The initiatives come amid expert predictions that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

"Plastic straws that end up in our oceans have a devastating effect on species," said Erin Simon, director of sustainability research & development and material science at World Wildlife Fund, US, in a statement. "We hope others will follow in [Starbucks'] footsteps."

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