Starbucks Will End Use of Plastic Straws by 2020

The catch: They’ll still have SOME straws (if you ask nicely).
Ian Burke
Brooklyn, US
Photo via Flickr user poolie

On Monday, Starbucks announced that their stores will completely phase out plastic straws by the year 2020, following its hometown of Seattle’s initiative to be the first American city to go completely strawless. To all of the Frappuccino addicts who (I can only imagine) are rocking back and forth in the fetal position right now: Relax. Starbucks will still have straws for your beloved drink—although we can’t promise that the new, non-plastic alternatives won’t get a little soggy.


Starbucks says that the eco-friendly move will keep an estimated 1 billion straws out of the ocean per year, according to the company’s website. To fill their new straw-void, they’ll be switching to a raised, strawless lid that features a teardrop-shaped mouthpiece that’s intended to make sipping cold, frothy drinks a breeze. Now you might be thinking, ‘Isn’t that extra plastic just as bad as using a straw?’ Well, the lid scientists at Starbucks (yes, that’s a thing) beg to differ. In a press release, the company points out that the plastic it will be using for its strawless lids is a more sustainable material than the plastic used for the typical straw.

“By nature, the straw isn’t recyclable and the lid is, so we feel this decision is more sustainable and more socially responsible,” Chris Milne, director of packaging sourcing, said in a press release. Starbucks already tested the lid in 8,000 locations in the US and Canada, and apparently the trial run went well, since the lid is set to become “the standard 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.”

And if you feel like an anti-straw sentiment has been dominating the internet lately, you’re probably right. However, there’s a good reason: Americans alone use over 500 million plastic straws every day. (The current US population is only 325 million.) What’s worse it that the majority of the straws go directly into the ocean, where they kill fish and generally make marine life hell. According to recent estimates, at the current pace of global straw use, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by the year 2050.

Now, ‘strawless’ is a little bit of a misnomer here. To Starbucks’ credit, they will be discontinuing the use of plastic straws in the next two years, but according to their website, “Customers who prefer or need a straw can request one made of alternative materials for use with any cold drink.”

So, if you’re a huge fan of Starbucks-brand plastic straws (for some strange, sick reason) stock up while you can. (Or don’t. Please don’t.)