Starbucks Officially Ditches Plastic Straws
Most of the time, new menu items at chain restaurants are simply a twist on current offerings (see: Taco Bell's mastery of the "same ingredients different ways" concept). But for Starbucks, the introduction of Cold Foam in 2018 necessitated a reengineering of the way its customers drink iced coffee. Thus, the strawless lid—a sort of sippy cup for adults—made its debut along with the fluffy drink topping.
But beyond giving cold coffee fans a more satisfying sipping experience, the new lids were also a sign of changing times for many quick-service restaurants reliant on disposable plastic straws and lids as (pre-coronavirus) consumers demanded less plastic waste with their orders. And now today, Starbucks announced that it has fully phased out straws and flat lids, making strawless lids the standard for cold drinks at all of its stores across the U.S. and Canada.
Today's announcement makes good on a promise the company made shortly after debuting the new lids to eliminate plastic straws by 2020. Starbucks says the polypropylene sipping lids constitute 9 percent less plastic than the straw-and-lid combination but are also able to be recycled in many regions, unlike the straws themselves. The phase-out is just one of a handful of sustainability projects the company has been working on, including a compostable paper cup and even reusable, returnable cups. Starbucks has also pledged to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills 50 percent by 2030.
Straws will still be available, however, in all stores for customers who require them. One of the unintended consequences of the national movement to ban disposable plastic straws is the elimination of a sterile and reliably available option for customers with disabilities who may require a straw to drink or even reach their beverage. Starbucks confirmed to Food & Wine that while straws will be available, the old flat lids will not. Whether the larger opening and lack of (somewhat) spill-proof central straw hole will become an issue remains to be seen.