Seattle may have banned plastic straws citywide, but Starbucks is promising to take the policy a step further.
The Seattle-based coffee company on Monday pledged that by 2020, it will no longer offer single-use plastic straws in its 28,000 stores worldwide. The decision eliminates an estimated more than 1 billion plastic straws a year from its locations; and instead, the company will replace them with paper or compostable plastic alternatives and strawless lids for its iced drinks.
"For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee," president and CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement.
The announcement comes about a week after Seattle began its citywide ban on single-use plastic straws. Starbucks didn't participate in the Lonely Whale Foundation's Strawless in Seattle campaign to ban plastic straws back in September and remained quiet about the citywide ban until now.
According to the company's press release, Seattle and Vancouver will be the first cities where Starbucks will implement its strawless lids starting in the fall. The company said it's offered compostable straws since July.
Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson Andy Ryan said the city allows businesses to use up its existing inventory before the switch, and that the city will continue educating companies for some time about the ban before they start to fine them.
"We are always a lot more about education than we are about punishment," Ryan said. "We want our customers to understand what the right thing to do is."
Still, Starbucks's decision to eliminate single-use plastic straws in two years' time is a big win for ocean conservationists who wanted the company to join its efforts in eliminating plastic straws and silverware.
“Starbucks decision to phase out single-use plastic straws is a shining example of the important role that companies can play in stemming the tide of ocean plastic," said Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program, in Starbucks's statement. "With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year, we cannot afford to let industry sit on the sidelines, and we are grateful for Starbucks leadership in this space."
Updated 4:50pm on July 9 to include comments from Starbucks and the city.