Attention straw lovers: the reckoning is upon us. For years, we saw this moment inching closer. First, a video of a plastic straw being graphically removed from a sea turtle’s nose goes viral. Then, Adrien Grenier becomes the unlikely #StopSucking spokesperson and your neighbourhood cocktail bar starts serving soggy paper straws in your frozen margaritas. Now, we’ve reached a point where Twitter users are comparing plastic straws with cigarettes, joking that people are now huddling outside to slurp up their ice-cold beverages, away from judgemental crowds.
And so, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the big guys are taking action. On Monday, July 9, Starbucks announced their plan to phase out single-use plastic straws by 2020, introducing a new sippy cup-esque container as the standard for all iced coffees, teas and espresso beverages. These cleverly designed strawless lids will launch in Vancouver and Seattle this fall, and continue to roll out in Canada and the United States next year, eventually eliminating more than one billion plastic straws per year from the world. Take a look:
Huh. Neat. As a habitual iced beverage consumer—and hence, habitual straw user—I admit I was hesitant. According to my dentist, straws are great for protecting my teeth against staining and decay from the sugary drinks I regularly consume. Plus, even when they aren’t swirly, they’re still super fun!
In the name of journalism, I tried to cast aside my doubts. Cautiously, I opted for a strawless lid when I ordered my 3 o’clock Cold Foam Cascara Cold Brew yesterday afternoon. For a foamy drink, the adult sippy cup performs well; I was happy to have a little bit of sweet froth in every coffee sip. Still, I missed the slurping, and the sensation of chewing on a straw, aggressively grinding my teeth against the plastic. (My dentist might have different feelings about my straw use after all…)
Despite what it may seem, plastic straws are far from our biggest problem when it comes to the environment. They aren’t even the biggest contributor of marine pollution. What they are, according to The Global Wildlife Conservation, is a “gateway plastic” that urges people to take notice and start conversations about the issue at hand. And that’s something I want to support.
Thankfully, eliminating plastic straws doesn’t mean you have to go “strawless.” Come 2020, Starbucks will be offering alternative-material straws – including paper or compostable plastic – for their Frappuccino blended beverages, and they will be available by request for customers who need them. My plan, however, is to start packing my own reusable straw in my purse. If straws are like cigarettes, then reusable straws are like vapes: at first, you’ll feel a little douchey pulling it out. But eventually, it’ll be the norm.