Starbucks will eliminate plastic straws from all of its locations within two years, citing the environmental threat to oceans.
The company becomes the largest food and beverage company to do so as calls to cut waste globally grow louder. Plastic straws have become one of the biggest targets.
A week after its hometown banned plastic drinking straws and utensils, the Seattle company said Monday that by 2020, it would be using straws made from biodegradable materials like paper and specially designed lids. The company already offers alternative straws in Seattle.
Other cities, such as Fort Meyers, have banned plastic straws as well. Similar proposals are being considered in places such as New York and San Francisco.
The strawless lids will begin to appear in Seattle and Vancouver Starbucks this fall, with phased rollouts within the U.S. and Canada to follow next year. A global rollout of the strawless lids will follow, beginning in Europe where they will be used in select stores in France and the Netherlands, as well as in the United Kingdom.
The issue is coming up in company boardrooms, though Starbucks is taking the lead.
McDonald’s shareholders voted down a proposal requesting a report on plastic straws in May.
McDonald’s recently said it would switch to paper straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland by next year, and test alternatives to plastic straws in some U.S. locations.
In Canada, McDonald’s has said it planned to monitor the market tests to understand the impact the changes may have before making any specific decisions.
Rival burger chain A&W Food Services of Canada has said it would eliminate all plastic straws from its restaurants by the end of this year.
While plastic drinking straws have become one of the more high-profile issues environmentally, they make up only about 4% of the plastic trash by number of pieces, and far less by weight. Straws add up to about 2,000 tons of the nearly nine million tons of plastic waste that ends up in the water each year.