Starbucks says it will eliminate plastic straws from its stores globally by 2020, a nod to the growing push for businesses to be more environmentally friendly.
The company becomes the largest food and beverage company to do so as calls to cut waste globally grow louder. Plastic straws have become one of the biggest targets.
A week after Seattle banned plastic drinking straws and utensils, the company said Monday that by 2020, it will be using straws made from biodegradable materials like paper and specially designed lids. The company already offers alternative straws in Seattle.
Other cities, like Fort Meyers, have banned plastic straws as well. Similar proposals are being considered in places like New York and San Francisco.
The issue is coming up in company boardrooms, though Starbucks is taking the lead.
McDonald’s shareholders voted down a proposal requesting a report on plastic straws in May. McDonald’s also recently said it would switch to paper straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland by next year, and test alternatives to plastic straws in some U.S. locations.
While plastic drinking straws have become one of the more high-profile issues environmentally, they make up only about 4 percent of the plastic trash by number of pieces, and far less by weight. Straws add up to about 2,000 tons of the nearly 9 million tons of plastic waste that ends up in the water each year.
The strawless lids will begin to appear in Seattle and Vancouver Starbucks this fall, with phased rollouts within the U.S. and Canada to follow next year. A global rollout of the strawless lids will follow, beginning in Europe where the will be used in select stores in France and the Netherlands, as well as in the United Kingdom.
Environmental activists have been pressuring businesses to ditch plastic straws because they can end up in the ocean and hurt marine life. The push gained traction after a viral video in 2015 showed rescuers removing a straw from a sea turtle’s nose in graphic detail.