Starbucks is banning plastic straws by 2020 for a good reason

Its new designer lid is like a sippy cup for adults.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
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It's the lid heard around the world.


With the plastic-filled Great Pacific Garbage Patch growing like a monster and everyone from Seattle to the EU looking into or outright banning single-use plastics, global coffee company Starbucks saw the future. And it is plastic-strawless.

Starbucks announced on Monday it will phase out plastic straws at over 28,000 company operated and licensed shops by 2020. 

But you won't have to apply your lips directly to the side of a cup. Starbucks will instead offer a new strawless lid or straws made from plastic alternatives to fulfill your drinking desires.

Starbucks expects the change to eliminate over a billion plastic straws each year. The strawless lid is a big part of the coffee chain's plans. It looks like a modified version of the sippy cups that are popular drinking utensils for toddlers. The lid is already available for certain cold drinks in 8,000 US Starbucks stores.

A research and development team at Starbucks headed up by engineer Emily Alexander started work on the new lid in 2016. The company describes the final design as featuring "a teardrop-shaped opening about the size of a thumbprint." It took 10 weeks of experimentation and testing to arrive at that point. 

The new lids are still made from plastic, but from a type that is recyclable in many locations. "By nature, the straw isn't recyclable and the lid is, so we feel this decision is more sustainable and more socially responsible," said Starbucks director of packaging sourcing Chris Milne.

The elimination of plastic straws is one phase of a larger sustainability plan. Starbucks is also working on developing a fully recyclable and compostable hot cup.

Frappuccino fans don't have to worry about trying to suck the slushy beverage through a sippy cup hole. Starbucks will offer straws made from paper or compostable plastic made from fermented plant starch for the popular icy drinks.

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