Last week, Starbucks announced that it would be abandoning the use of plastic straws, an announcement greeted with gushing praise.
The action was “an Environmental Milestone,” The New Republic proclaimed.
In its own press release, Starbucks quoted Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program, as calling its action “a shining example of the important role that companies can play in stemming the tide of ocean plastic.”
Then came Christian Britschgi, writing at Reason, to take a slightly different perspective.
Deciding to use facts, he did an experiment to test the amount of plastic currently used, and the amount that will be used in the new straw-free lids Starbucks is phasing in.
He wrote that when customers buy a cold drink at Starbucks, they currently get “either 3.23 grams or 3.55 grams of plastic product, depending on whether they pair their lid with a small or large straw.”
And the new lids? They “weigh either 3.55 or 4.11 grams, depending again on lid size,” Britschgi wrote.
His bottom line? Eliminating plastic straws puts more plastic into the waste stream, where it may well make it to the landfill or the ocean.
Starbucks sees things differently and argues that more is actually less.
“The strawless lid is made from polypropylene, a commonly-accepted recyclable plastic that can be captured in recycling infrastructure, unlike straws which are too small and lightweight to be captured in modern recycling equipment,” Starbucks said in a statement when asked by Britain’s The Daily Mail about Britschgi’s experiment.
Britschgi shrugged that response aside, noting that not all recyclable products are actually recycled and saying that “the new lids (being) recyclable has little bearing on how many will end up in the world’s oceans and waterways.”
Some thought Starbucks was simply being absurd in announcing its ban on plastic straws.
When the new Starbucks lids actually contain more plastic and chemicals than actual straws but it was never about environmentalism it was about corporations performing and an easy movement to grasp like the straws at a restaurant
— emma✨ (@emmageebby) July 13, 2018
The next time I'm idling my car for 20 minutes at a drive thru for a strip mall Starbucks built atop a reclaimed wetland, I will feel a unique sense of satisfaction that they are protecting the earth from straws. pic.twitter.com/jvvIbKfs76
— Tristin Hopper (@TristinHopper) July 9, 2018
There is also the question of individuals with disabilities who require straws, and what happens to them in a straw-free world.
How about offering both types of straws?
I still need a plastic straw w/ your new lids because I cannot lift a drink (see profile pic).
Your whole menu is about customization & options.
— Alice Wong (@SFdirewolf) July 11, 2018
“… what if you decide on the spur of the moment to go have a drink with friends after work but forgot your reusable straw that day?” said Lawrence Carter-Long, communications director for the national Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, according to National Public Radio.
“(That) doesn’t leave a lot of room for spontaneity — something nondisabled folks get to largely take for granted.”
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