By Contributing Writer Caroline Quirk.
Starbucks made a seemingly momentous sustainability move this past summer. With the anti-straw movement gaining popularity, there is a growing pressure on companies and individuals to ditch plastic straws. One of the leading coffee corporations, Starbucks, have joined the cause.
We all know the dilemma of plastic straws; the small, lightweight plastic cannot make it through most recycling equipment, so they just end up in landfills or in our already suffering oceans. The straws catch the eye of many marine animals, getting it caught and tangled in themselves and even killing them. Nine million tons of plastic may enter the ocean every year, that’s a lot of sea turtles being put at risk.
Starbucks announced that they are going to ban plastic straws, and replace them with plastic sippy-cup-like lids called Nitro lids by 2020. This is great right? A huge corporation with over 28,000 locations around the world banning plastic straws, what’s not to like?
There is a lot more than what meets the eye. Although Starbucks’ attempt to make a sustainable impact is admirable, the conversation should not stop there. For starters, a majority of the lids will never make it to a recycling bin at all. The everyday rush to get coffee and get rid of it quick often causes proper recycling to get lost in translation.
The Nitro lids are made of number 5 plastic, which the US used to sell to China. However, China no longer wants the US’s plastic, leaving many recyclers struggling to find a place for their number 5 plastics. Many cities across the US such as Sacramento, California have already banned number 5 plastics and many more cities are to follow. Therefore, introducing just another number 5 plastic seems nothing less of counterproductive and wasteful.
The lids themselves are noticeably thicker than the straw and lid combination in place and seem to use more plastic. Studies have proven that Nitro lids are in fact heavier than the current straw and lid, though not by a significant amount, the plastic still adds up very quickly.
The Starbucks stores are only growing in number, and many of the locations don’t have proper recycling infrastures that can handle the size and plastic of the lids. Which makes the whole idea appear not fully thought through and very under researched. It almost seems as if they are just replacing one single use plastic with another and labeling it as sustainable.
Not to doubt that Starbucks does not have good intentions with this phase out of plastic straws.
However, the ban of plastic straws and introduction of even heavier plastic lids feels more like a way to earn praise from the anti-plastic straw movement rather than a worthwhile sustainability initiative.