Regulars of Carrier’s or East Campus Library’s Starbucks may have noticed a brand new lid on their iced caramel macchiatos. The new “sippy cup lids” for iced drinks resembles the same type that comes on hot drinks.
In 2018, Starbucks announced an initiative to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020. The decision was made in an effort to make the company’s packaging more sustainable. Starbucks claims that by using its new iced drink lid, it’ll save up to one billion straws per year.
The effort to eliminate the need for plastic straws came after a video of a sea turtle having a straw pulled out of its nose went viral. This started a wave of U.S. cities and corporations banning the use of plastic straws. One of those cities is Seattle, where Starbucks is headquartered.
After coming to the conclusion that I’d need an iced coffee to survive my next two classes, I tried the new lid. While it’s convenient to not have to grab a straw, sipping through the lid feels unnatural. After sitting for 20 minutes, the melted ice starts to slip through the lid opening, forcing the drinker to crunch unpleasantly on the ice. My experience testing it led me to wonder if it’s actually making the environmental impact Starbucks claims it is.
The answer is short and unfortunate: no. While the new lids eliminate the need for a straw, they use more plastic than the original iced drink lid. The original lid used three grams of plastic — including the plastic straw — and the new lid uses four grams of plastic. It’s also supposed to be recyclable, but only 5% of the polypropylene it’s made from is recycled every year. For a company that’s trying to be more environmentally friendly, it doesn’t make sense to create a lid that would end up putting more plastic in the ocean.
Starbucks also can’t completely eliminate the use of straws as long as frappuccinos are on the menu. The blended drinks can’t be forced through the new lid’s small opening. This is problematic when some of Starbucks’ most popular drinks are frappuccinos.
Another challenge that comes with eliminating straws is providing for people with disabilities who rely on straws to sip their drinks. This is also a common issue for young children and seniors. Not having access to a straw will ensure spills.
It’s great that Starbucks is taking responsibility for its environmental footprint, but its immediate solution of using a sippy cup lid is far from perfect. The company should go back to the drawing board and brainstorm a better design or invest in biodegradable straws. There are many different types of straws made from plant materials like hay and bamboo.
In order to truly be environmentally friendly, students should purchase reusable cups and lids. Starbucks sells plenty of their own, and every time customers bring in a reusable cup to fill, they’ll receive ten cents off their total. Not only will students be saving the environment, they’ll be saving money as well.
Allison Baxter is a junior media arts & design and communication studies double major. Contact Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org.