Starbucks under fire for plastic straw phase-out

July 31, 2018

 

Similar to Tetra Pak’s recent announcement that they will transition to paper straws by the end of this year, Starbucks announced on July 9, 2018 that they will eliminate straws in their stores by 2020.

 

Starbucks will not be taking away straws completely, but rather replacing single-use plastic straws with:

  • Strawless lids for iced coffee, tea and espresso beverages.

  • Straws made of alternative materials, such as paper or compostable plastic, for Frappuccino beverages (available by request).

 

New lids are made of polypropylene plastic, which is widely recyclable. In addition, Starbucks has invested $10 million into developing a fully recyclable and compostable hot cup. The chain is also encouraging customers to BYOT – “bring your own tumbler.” Since 2014, they have sold more than 18 million reusable cups in the United States.

 

However, their decision to phase out plastic straws has come under fire from the disability community. Critics say that eliminating straws will hurt people with neurological, muscular and movement disorders who need sturdy plastic straws to safely drink fluids. Though Starbucks will be offering paper or compostable alternatives, these are often inadequate in terms of sturdiness and flexibility.

 

Phasing out straws is a positive step towards changing the culture that surrounds single-use plastics and unnecessary waste, but many believe the plan poses challenges for Starbucks’ disabled customers.

 

Instead, it is suggested that Starbucks keep plastic straws near the counter so disabled people can access them without having to ask. The company says they “will continue to take an inclusive approach as we look ahead to our phased roll-out.”

 

Critics believe that although this is a move to benefit the environment and marine wildlife, it may also ignore the well-being of a marginalized group of people. Rather, the company must recognize that both social and environmental aspects exist without compromising one for the other.

 

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