This will keep an estimated 1 billion straws out of landfills.
Credit: Photo by melmedia via Getty Images

Few products have been more maligned in recent times than the single-use plastic straw. And rightfully so: Each year, we collectively use up billions of them, hardly batting an eye as the waste piles up.

But 2018 has seen our attitudes towards plastic straws start to shift, as environmentally-conscious consumers have sought out more sustainable alternatives. Well, thanks to a new plan by Starbucks, the movement to do away with disposable plastic straws just picked up a lot of momentum.

This week, the giant coffee chain announced its intention to go completely strawless at all 28,000 of its global stores by 2020. Once implemented, Starbucks estimates that such a measure would save a billion plastic straws from winding up in landfills each year.

The shunning of straws is part of Starbucks’ broader global mission to invest in more sustainable materials. The company has committed $10 million towards the development of cups that can be recyclable and/or compostable, a move that comes amid pressure from environmental groups.

This week’s announcement is the first time those pledges have turned into concrete action, however. “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 president and CEO Kevin Johnson said in a company statement announcing the move.

So what’s the alternative? Thankfully, it’s not spilling your iced coffee all over your shirt. In fact, fans of Starbucks’ “Draft Nitro” offerings are already familiar with the strawless lid that began rolling out in 2016 for their kegged coffees. Designed by global R&D engineer Emily Alexander and her team, the solution that some refer to as the “adult sippy cup” is set to become the standard cold beverage lid at Starbucks locations around Seattle and Vancouver this fall, with a wider rollout to follow. Since Frappuccinos are a bit hard to drink with a flat lid, they’ll be served with a “straw made from paper and PLA compostable plastic,” according to Starbucks.

Sure, individualized solutions like metal straws have come into fashion in recent times. But with Starbucks joining New York City and McDonalds (at least in the UK and Ireland) as major opponents of the plastic straw, it seems like the straw sustainability movement is truly on the verge of going global. Here’s hoping that an even greater number of restaurants and coffee shops follow suit.