LOS ANGELES (CBS NEWS) — Starbucks announced Monday it would stop offering plastic straws from all of its stores by 2020, becoming the largest food and beverage company to do so as calls to cut waste globally grow louder.

Viral videos — including one depicting researchers extracting a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s bleeding nostril — is prompting some companies and municipalities to find ocean-friendlier alternatives.

A week after its hometown banned plastic drinking straws and utensils, the Seattle company said Monday that within two years, it will be using straws made from biodegradable materials like paper and specially designed lids. The company already offers alternative straws in Seattle.

In Southern California, beach cities like Malibu and Manhattan Beach have already banned straws and plastic utensils, while Sea World further south has followed suit. Similar proposals are being considered in places like New York and San Francisco.

To replace the straws, Starbucks also debuted images of its new strawless lids, which will begin to appear in Seattle and Vancouver locations this fall, with phased rollouts within the U.S. and Canada to follow next year. A global rollout of the strawless lids will follow, beginning in Europe where the will be used in select stores in France and the Netherlands, as well as in the United Kingdom.

The lid that is replacing the straws is also plastic, but is also recyclable.

The strawless lids will become the standard for all of Starbucks’ iced drinks except the Frappuccino, which the company says will be served with a straw made from paper or a compostable plastic manufactured from fermented plastic starch.

Straws made of alternative materials will still be available to customers on request.

The issue is coming up in company boardrooms, though Starbucks is taking the lead among large food chains. McDonald’s shareholders voted down a proposal requesting a report on plastic straws in May, although it recently said it would switch to paper straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland by next year, and test alternatives to plastic straws in some U.S. locations.

In May, Alaska Airlines said travelers on its flights would be served drinks with compostable versions of stir straws and citrus picks: white birch for coffee and bamboo for citrus sticks. The Seattle-based carrier, which said it handed out 22 million stir straws and citrus picks last year, also said it would have non-plastic, marine-friendly drinking straws for travelers that request them.

While plastic drinking straws have become one of the more high-profile issues environmentally, they make up only about 4 percent of the plastic trash by number of pieces, and far less by weight. Straws add up to about 2,000 tons of the nearly 9 million tons of plastic waste that ends up in the water each year.

Comments (6)
  1. Daniella Crigler says:

    The plastic cups and plastic lids also end up in the landfill.

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