Global coffeehouse chain Starbucks announced it will phase out plastic straws at its 28,000 locations by 2020, using recyclable strawless lids or straws made from alternative materials, like paper, Reuters reported. The announcement marks a significant victory for environmental groups that have urged cities and companies to ban single-use plastics.
“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,” Starbucks Chief Executive Kevin Johnson said in a statement.
Starbucks’ decision comes just one week after Seattle’s ban on plastic straws and utensils at “all food service businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores, delis, coffee shops, food trucks, and institutional cafeterias,” took effect. New York City and San Francisco are said to be considering similar bans. A ban on plastic packaging — including bags, Styrofoam, takeout containers, and utensils — in the Indian state of Maharashtra also took effect last month. And McDonald’s announced last month that it would stop using plastic straws at its locations in the United Kingdom, which approved a single-use plastic ban in April, and Ireland by the end of 2019. The restaurant chain also said it would test the straw policy in a half-dozen other countries, including the United States, in the coming years.
An estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans annually, according to the U.N. Environment Program. About 63 billion straws were used in the U.S. in 2017, equal to around 170 to 175 million straws per day, according to Reuters.
Starbucks said it will start using strawless lids in its Seattle and Vancouver locations this fall, with plans to expand their usage to all U.S. and Canadian restaurants next year. The phase-out of plastic straws will then move to Europe and other locations.