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Banning Single-Use Plastic Straws – is it a Sustainability Win?


American Airlines, Hilton Hotels,  Royal Caribbean, Cunard, and Red Lobster and a host of other companies have also committed to doing away with plastic straws. Most recently, Red Lobster has said that it is no longer automatically giving out plastic straws to customers. If patrons want one, they’ll have to ask for it.

Red Lobster plans to phase out the use of plastic straws by the end of 2020 and replacing them with an eco-friendly alternative. The transition is estimated to eliminate 150 million plastic straws per year from its more than 700 restaurant locations.

McDonald’s announced that it will start using paper straws in some of its restaurants as early as this year.

Earlier in the year

In July, Starbucks announced it would ban single-use plastic straws from its stores by 2020. The company began introducing straw-less lids, which will eliminate more than 1 billion plastic straws a year across its 28,000 stores.

Although the new straw-less lids contain more plastic than the previous lid and straw combination, the new lid is made from polypropylene, a commonly accepted recyclable plastic that can be captured in recycling infrastructure. Plastic straws are too small and lightweight to be captured in modern recycling equipment.

If all of the new plastic lids are recycled, this will be a huge sustainability win. However, this cannot be an assumption because only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled. Many number of things that are theoretically recyclable do not get recycled for reasons such as contamination. Some environmental groups have even tagged Starbucks as a “Cup Monster” due to the nearly 6 billion of its disposable cups that end up in landfills each year.

Another Empty Promise?

Starbucks recently announced that it is working with McDonalds to develop a sustainable solution: a global recyclable and/or compostable cup. Hopefully the solution will come soon, because over a decade ago,  Starbucks said it would make 100% of its cups reusable or recyclable by 2015, but this still hasn’t happened.

[via USA Today & The Guardian]


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