Starbucks’ new strawless lids are not a win for the environment


Olivia Davis, Staff Columnist

In the summer of 2018, Starbucks announced that they plan to globally end their use of plastic straws by 2020. With more than 28,000 locations, the company hopes this will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year from Starbucks alone.

This announcement comes at a time where the reality of human plastic use has been of hot discussion. Videos have emerged of plastic straws and other small plastic items affecting ocean life and polluting bodies of water. Starbucks plans to replace its separate plastic straws and lids with strawless lids or alternative-material straw options.

This appears to be a huge step for companies confronting their contributions to plastic waste, but is that truly the intention? Are companies really focused on the reduction of plastic waste, or are they merely using this as a marketing strategy?

The strawless lids Starbucks plans to introduce globally are already available at about 8,000 locations and resemble an adult sippy-cup. The lids are noticeably made of thicker plastic, and many people have questioned if they are even cutting down on the company’s use of plastic at all. Studies have found that the strawless lids actually use more plastic than the separate plastic straw and lid currently in use at most locations. Starbucks has acknowledged this and claims that the new lids are made of polypropylene, a recyclable plastic that’s easier to catch in the recycling process.

The reason that plastic straws are so harmful to the environment is due to their small size and tendency to break apart into smaller pieces. Starbucks claims that the thicker plastic used in the strawless lids will allow for them to be more easily recycled and stay intact for longer. Combined with the use of a less toxic form of plastic, the company hopes this will positively impact the environment. 

Although Starbucks has made an effort to aid the environment, this is not the most beneficial way they can help. Although they claim the strawless lids are less harmful overall, they will still contribute to plastic waste. They may be more easily recycled, but only about 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled. Not only will these lids probably not change the amount of plastic that is recycled, but they will also take longer to break down due to their thickness.

Instead of focusing on a form of plastic that is the least harmful, Starbucks and other companies should be looking into biodegradable options for all products. Cups, lids, straws – all of these items can be made from materials that damage our environment less. It appears that environmentalism is something companies are utilizing as a fad in efforts to bring in more customers with new, seemingly helpful tactics.

Helping the environment should never be a part of a marketing strategy. Companies like Starbucks have the power to really make an impact on people and combat the issue of plastic waste. In the future, it is imperative that they do more.