The End of Plastic Straws; Everything You Need To Know

By MADISON FLAGER / Posted on July 19, 2018

Plastic straws have been a big topic of discussion as of late. It’s no surprise that they’re not great for the environment, but if a switch to plastic lids (à la Starbucks) is making you scratch your head, here’s what you need to know.

Because of their size, plastic straws can literally slip through the cracks when going through the recycling process. They often end up in the ocean, where they can do damage to sea creatures who mistake them for food. And when they’re not recycled, they wind up in landfills. Plastic lids, while not ideal, are much easier to recycle.

Even if you’re not a big straw drinker, the problem is undoubtedly huge — according to the National Park Service, Americans use 500 million straws every single day. As more attention is paid to the issue thanks to celebrity campaigns and horrific videos, like the one of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose, companies and cities have taken strides to reduce the amount of straws used each day. Here are some of the biggest players so far.

Starbucks
Earlier this week, Starbucks announced a move to get rid of plastic straws globally by 2020. Starbucks will switch to compostable straws to be given to customers upon request and when they order a Frappuccino, and put the “sippy cup” lids on regular drinks. Smaller coffee chains, like Intelligentsia and Joe Coffee, have announced a switch to compostable straws or all-out ban as well.

McDonald’s
While McDonald’s U.K. stores are already taking steps to reduce plastic straws in stores, McDonald’s Corporation has set a goal to shift 100 percent of guest packaging (cups, straws, boxes, etc.) to renewable or recycled sources by 2025.

American Airlines
Even though straws aren’t usually given out on flights, those little plastic stirrers are often provided. Beginning this month, American Airlines will eliminate straws from its lounges and serve drinks with a biodegradable, eco-friendly straw and wood stir stick. In November, in-flight stir sticks will switch over to a bamboo alternative. Alaska Airlines also made the switch this month.

Royal Caribbean
The cruise line announced in June that all 50 ships across its fleet will be free of plastic straws by the end of 2018. The company owns Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, TUI Cruises, and Pullmantur Cruceros. For the past year, they’ve been operating under a “by request only” policy when it comes to plastic straws.

Bacardi
Bacardi, which launched a #NoStraws campaign in 2016, announced this month they are furthering their effort to reduce straw usage. The brand will eliminate single-use plastic straws from branded events, music activations, and the Bacardi Rum Truck, and will use biodegradable paper cups at all U.K. events.

Fox Restaurant Concepts
In June, restaurateur Sam Fox banned plastic straws in all 50 restaurants he operates around the country. At places like Zinburger and The Greene House, eco-friendly straws will be offered to those who need them for health reasons, but only by request.

Seattle
At the beginning of the month, Seattle became the first city in the United States to prohibit vendors from providing customers with plastic utensils or straws, unless they are made of compostable paper or compostable plastic.

Vancouver
As part of the Canadian city’s Zero Waste 2040 strategy, plastic straws and foam take-out containers and cups will be banned as of June 1, 2019.

More Cities & States
While restaurants are free to make decisions individually, cities and states will take a bit longer to enforce action. Cities like Miami Beach and Fort Myers in Florida and Malibu and Berkeley in California have already banned plastic straws, and in New York City, a bill was introduced in May to ban straws. The state of California is considering enacting a straws-upon-request policy, too.

As the issue gains attention, more are likely to follow. In the meantime, you can help on a personal level by not buying straws at the grocery store, purchasing reusable straws, and not asking for straws at restaurants.

• • •