Hey: Starbucks Sippy Lids are Still Single-Use Plastic
In an effort to reduce environmental pollution, Starbucks announced earlier this week that it will stop providing customers with plastic straws by 2020 globally, and instead offer a new sippy cup style lid for iced drinks.
Starbucks says its new lids will eliminate more than 1 billion straws per year. This is great news.
However, outraged comments quickly poured onto social media posts regarding the fact that the new lids will still be made from plastic. Others were upset at the two year time-frame given for complete elimination.
To many, it feels as though Starbucks merely bulked at the pressure currently aimed at plastic straws, while the company is not actually serious about solving environmental issues.
From a business and supply chain standpoint, it is understandable that Starbucks will need some time to phase out plastic straws while having a new product manufactured.
Surely Starbucks wants to keep good business relationships—it does have contracts with its suppliers that it either cannot (legally) or will not (morally) break.
Remember that companies who manufacture plastic straws also supply jobs that will need to be phased out or transitioned. Setting a time-frame for a commercial supply transition is not always easily understood by the public, but it is both necessary and responsible business. We'll give Starbucks that.
The sippy lids, however, are a different story.
News outlets are celebrating Starbucks's plan to phase out single-use plastic straws with its new alternative.
What is not being mentioned in mainstream news is the fact that Starbucks developed its sippy lid, first introduced at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in 2016, not as an environmental solution, but to compliment its Nitro Cold Brew with Cold Foam.
Drinking through a straw means sipping from the bottom and missing out on the Cold Foam which remains on top. According to a company spokesperson, the wider lid is essential to enjoying the taste and texture of the Cold Foam.
While celebrating the volumes of straw reduction, mainstream news fails to mention that these new lids were not designed with the environment in mind and are still just single-use plastics. That's good marketing for you.
99.75% of coffee cups are not recycled in practice.
This number does include Starbucks hot paper cups for which the company has taken a lot of heat (pun intended) due to its very difficult to recycle inner plastic lining.
Even though the plastic cold cups and new lids are technically recyclable, they are made from plastic #5 (polypropylene) which many curbside programs will not accept. Additionally, Starbucks cannot control its customers from throwing plastic cups in waste bins.
In a press release, Kevin Johnson, Starbucks President and CEO said:
"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."
Personally, we'd like to see this so called milestone stretched a bit further.
For starters, carrying in-house coffee mugs and cups would be a great improvement. And, new policy requiring baristas to ask customers whether they plan to drink their coffee "for here" or "to-go" instead of automatically making all orders in single-use disposable cups to along with it.
In the meantime, if you're getting your daily dose of caffeine, herbal tea, or smoothie from Starbucks, the best practice is to BYO reusable container.