It’s estimated that more than 500 million plastic straws are used per day in the U.S. But that number could be about to plunge as big corporations like Starbucks (SBUX) start to eliminate them.
On Monday, Starbucks announced that it will stop using plastic straws in its 28,000 stores by 2020. Instead, the company will use a strawless lid on most of its cold beverages, replacing the more than 1 billion green straws the company hands out each year.
John Sidanta, the CEO and founder of PRIMASTRAW, a company that manufactures straws for major chains like Starbucks, told Yahoo Finance in a LinkedIn message that it’s the “right decision” for the coffee giant to want to “change, reduce or replace” the materials currently being used in its straws.
He emphasized, however, that Starbucks would never be able to eliminate straws entirely because of some of the drinks offered. Furthermore, he noted that children and people with certain disabilities would continue to need straws.
Like any company leader confronted by changing customer demands, Sidanta recognizes this is just part of doing business.
“[W]e have provided solutions since 10-15 years ago,” he said. “For straw manufacturers, we have to cope” by providing alternative materials while delivering the same function. He did, however, say alternatives won’t work if costs are significantly higher.
The strawless revolution
Lately, it seems that there’s been a movement to go strawless. In March, “Entourage” actor Adrian Grenier spoke at Starbucks’s annual meeting encouraging shareholders to pass a resolution for the coffee company to get rid of plastic straws.
“I’m here not because I was asked to be, I’m here because I have seen this destruction firsthand. I’m here because I care, and Starbucks, I want you to care more,” Grenier said at the meeting. “I am business friendly and I understand the challenges associated with innovation on a global scale, but solutions are already on the market and our competitors have begun to take action.”
While the resolution Grenier presented on behalf of As You Sow failed to pass — as shareholder resolutions often do — Starbucks paid attention to the star’s plea.
Back in 2016, Emily Alexander and her team in research and development spent weeks working on a strawless lid for customers to enjoy the creamy foam of Starbucks’s Nitro beverage. It turns out that lid design will play an important role as the company moves to reduce waste by going strawless.
Grenier, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, applauded the company’s announcement.
“Starbucks taught the world how to drink coffee, and I believe that this commitment will help teach the world how to embrace sustainable business practices—starting with the plastic straw,” Grenier said.
Starbucks is not alone
The world’s largest seller of coffee joins other major corporations on the strawless bandwagon.
Also on Monday, Hyatt Hotels (H) said it would end single-use straws and drink picks and start offering eco-friendly alternatives. Hilton Hotels (HLT) plans to remove the 5 million plastic straws it hands out each year by the end of 2018. Passengers on board Royal Caribbean (RCL) will only receive a straw with a drink order if they request it.
Last year, a 16-year-old Girl Scout Shelby O’Neill successfully convinced Alaska Airlines (ALK) to ditch 22 million single-use stir straws and citrus picks the airline uses each year for marine-friendly alternatives.
In May, Bon Appétit Management Company said it would ban plastic straws and stirrers companywide in its 1,000 cafés and restaurants in 33 states with the phase-out expected to be completed by September 2019.
The movement extends beyond big businesses. Goldenvoice’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival eliminated an estimated 300,000 single-use plastic straws.
This spring, the University of Portland became the first university to ban plastic straws on its campus. Other schools including Knox College in Illinois and California State University, Chico went strawless.
Meanwhile, cities across the U.S. have banned single-use plastic straws and utensils.
Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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