Starbucks Corp.'s green straws are either famous or infamous, depending on your perspective.
There is no doubt the plastic straws are synonymous with the company's drinks, part of the experience of buying a cold beverage at one of the chain's thousands of locations around the world.
But they also are part of a problem, alleges a consortium of environmental groups that is targeting Starbucks' use of plastics.
Starbucks, for its part, says its working toward environmental solutions and is urging shareholders to vote against a proposal aimed at plastics and recycling at its upcoming annual meeting.
The "Starbucks: Break Free from Plastic" campaign says it has the support of more than a dozen environmental organizations.
The campaign, among the goals, is targeting a variety of plastics products at Starbucks, including straws, cups and lids.
The green straws, in particular, "are not recycled and can harm marine mammals and fish," states a proposal from the As You Sow environmental group that will be before shareholders March 21.
"Starbucks pioneered the global 'to-go' disposable coffee cup culture, and sends more than 4 billion plastic-lined cups to landfill every year — along with countless single-use plastic lids, straws, stirrers and cutlery. We're calling on Starbucks to make a commitment to reusability and stop contributing to our global plastic pollution catastrophe," said Dianna Cohen of the Plastic Pollution Coalition in a statement.
Starbucks serves hot drinks in paper cups, but there also is a plastic component to those as well. The company, for years, has been working to find a solution to recycle those cups on a wide scale but has run into roadblocks because they are lined with plastic to improve durability.
The shareholder proposal asks that Starbucks report on "its environmental leadership commitments by scaling up efforts through a comprehensive policy on sustainable packaging."
The groups believe this policy needs to require that cups are both recyclable and recycled. They also want the company to increase the recycled content of packaging and no longer use plastic straws. The proposal also seeks a better commitment to promote the use of reusable cups.
But Starbucks, in the company's response, laid out a variety of environmental programs instituted over the past several years and said such a report is duplicative and unnecessary.
"Starbucks has consistently demonstrated and reported on its commitment to increasing the recyclability and reusability of its cups and other packaging," the company said.
The company provided "comprehensive updated goals" in a 2016 sustainability report "to continuously scale up and report on enterprise sustainability efforts. Accordingly, we believe additional analysis and reporting as requested by the proponent would be duplicative and unnecessary," Starbucks states.
One move the company made in 2016 was to transition its hot drink lids to polypropylene to allow for increased recycling opportunities in the United States and Canada, Starbucks said.
The company, in the sustainability report, said it "has made significant progress to green up the cup and recognize that there is a still a long way to go."
The company's goals for 2022 include exploring materials for its cold cups while doubling the recycled content for its hot cups made from paper fiber. The company also wants to double the number of stores and communities where cup recycling is available.
The campaign wants Starbucks to create a recyclable paper cup without a plastic lining, eliminate single use plastics including straws and promote reusable cups. The campaign also wants cup and food packaging recycling in all stores and a public report on plastics packaging.