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Starbucks: that’s the last straw!

Plastic packaging represents one of the biggest waste problems of the modern age. In a bid to reduce the materials build-up, Starbucks is phasing out plastic straws from its 28 000+ stores worldwide by 2020. The move is said to eliminate over 1 billion straws a year.

A packaging problem for Starbucks is that the plastic straws it used were not recyclable. The lid that is replacing the straws is also made of plastic, but its polypropylene content can be ‘widely recycled’, according to Starbucks. The recycling-friendly lid was designed by in-house engineer Emily Alexander – and is set to be used for all cold drinks apart from Frappuccino’s, which will have paper straws in the future.

A big transformation

‘By nature, the straw wasn’t recyclable and the new lid is, so we feel this decision is more sustainable and more socially responsible,’ comments Chris Milne, director of packaging sourcing for Starbucks. ‘Starbucks is finally drawing a line in the sand and creating a mould for other large brands to follow,’ he adds.

‘With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year, we cannot afford to let industry sit on the sidelines,’ observes Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas programme. He calls Starbucks’ decision to phase out single-use plastic straws ‘a shining example’ of the importance that big brands have in turning the tide of ocean plastic.

Alexander agrees: ‘It’s a small change, but going strawless is a big transformation.’

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