Starbucks and Seattle Declare War on Straws: Is It Enough?

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Starbucks and the city of Seattle have been getting a lot of attention in the last few days. Sunday, Seattle’s ban on plastic straws, utensils, and cocktail picks went into effect, affecting 5,000 restaurants in the city, according to CBS News.

And Starbucks announced Monday their commitment to removing plastic straws from all 28,000 locations by 2020. Instead they will offer either a recyclable plastic lid or an “alternative material straw,” expected to be made of paper says the New York Times.

American Airlines is the latest to make this move, announcing Tuesday that it will eliminate plastic straws and stir sticks from its flights and lounges. The company estimates that the change will eliminate more than 71,000 pounds of plastic per year. Other companies are hopping on the trend include Hyatt Hotels and Bon Appetit foodservice management.

These movements are in response to a rise in consumer awareness and concern of the amount of one-time use plastic is being dumped into landfills and oceans. Although plastic straws are made from polypropylene, a recyclable plastic, most recyclers won’t accept them. And according to plastics pollution researcher Sam Athey, “[It takes] about 200 years for polypropylene plastic straws to break down under normal environmental conditions”

Proposals to ban plastic straws are being considered in other cities too, including New York and San Francisco.

Not everyone is on board though, plastic ban legislation in Hawaii died this year and McDonald's has resisted studying the issue.

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Plastic straws were just a small part of the 335 million tons of plastic produced globall in 2016. And a paper straw distributor says paper alternatives cost about 10 times as much, so greater steps need to be taken in the reduction of plastic waste.

Until then, 5,000 Seattle restaurants will need to use reusable or compostable utensils and straws or face a $250 fine per instance.

Read more at The New York Times.