Starbucks Corp. wants to eliminate its green plastic straws by 2020.
The Seattle-based company is instead turning to what it calls a "strawless lid or alternative-material straw options."
As momentum continues to build against the use of plastic straws, Starbucks said it is rolling out a lid with a teardrop shaped opening with a raised lip as an alternative.
Starbucks, in a July 9 announcement, said it is the largest food and beverage retailer to ditch plastic straws, a move that's expected to eliminate 1 billion such units each year.
"This is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee, served to our customers in more sustainable ways," CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement.
News of the Starbucks move comes as Seattle recently enacted a ban on the use of straws in the city.
The decision was applauded by the World Wildlife Fund and the Ocean Conservancy following the press release issued by Starbucks announcing the move.
"Plastic straws that end up in our oceans have a devastating effect on species," said Erin Simon, director of sustainability research and development and material science at the WWF, in a statement.
Replacing a plastic straw with a new plastic lid does have its environmental benefits, Starbucks said.
While recycling straws is impractical, the company said, the new lid is made from polypropylene and will be more easily processed by recyclers.
"By nature, the straw isn't recyclable and the lid is, so we feel this decision is more sustainable and more socially responsible," said Chris Milne, director of packaging sourcing, in an article posted on Starbuck's website. "Starbucks is finally drawing a line in the sand and creating a mold for other large brands to follow."
The lid, the company said, is now available in more than 8,000 stores in the United States and Canada for select beverages, including its Draft Nitro and Cold Foam drinks. The company also will provide, by request, straws made from what the company calls "alternative materials" such as paper or compostable plastic for Frappucino blended beverages.
Starbucks' movement on straws is coming much more quickly than the company's efforts to address cup recycling. For years, the company has wrestled with recycling its paper cups. Those cups have a polyethylene lining that can contaminate the paper recycling stream.
The company recently committed $10 million toward creating a widely recycled paper cup. The company maintains its current paper cup is recyclable, but does require the necessary equipment investment to be recycled.
Starbucks also is testing paper straws in United Kingdom locations.
Single-use plastic straws have become more of an issue at Starbucks over time as more and more of the drinks sold by the chain are cold. The number of Starbucks locations also has grown rapidly over the years, and there are now more than 28,000 sites.
That compares to less than 20,000 in 2013, about 15,000 in 2007 and about 3,500 in 2000.