How companies like Starbucks tried "saving the world" by fooling us with no plastic straws?

How companies like Starbucks tried "saving the world" by fooling us with no plastic straws?

Straws suck, skip the straw, stop sucking, refuse the straw are names of some of the campaigns that took over the world in about 2016-17 or before in some developed countries.

Jumping on the consumers' demands asking retailers, coffee shops and restaurants to go straw-less, the top companies switched to so called "alternatives".

Lets see how they have saved the planet from single-use plastic so far.

STARBUCKS - the biggest failure

So Starbucks went from simple plastic lids to sippy-cup type lids. See image below.

Left: Starbucks old plastic cup with straws (Image Source: packaging insights). Right: Starbucks plastic lids after changes to turn it into sippy cup style lids (Image Source: Forbes)

In their extremely poorly thought and even worse execution of the change,

the new lid at Starbucks uses more plastic than the old ones and creates more waste


From my personal and intentional observation of the practices of serving iced drinks at Starbucks, a straw is still provided with these sippy-cup drinks.

Oh but wait, the straws are not plastic, they are "compostable". Now here is the catch,

compostable is not always eco-friendly.
  1. Compostable straws need industrial composting facilities that are non-existent or the waste collection system is non-existent to separate these straws and send them to these facilities. (Do not have a source for this but it is from personal life experience of living in Bangkok (Thailand), Yangon (Myanmar), Tokyo, Beppu (Japan), Gurgaon and Delhi (India) and Kathmandu (Nepal). None of these cities have waste collection system that separates straws for composting. They are all either going to landfills or incinerators)
  2. Even if some varieties can compost naturally, if they are ending up in landfills, they are most likely not degrading properly. Under all that mixed waste pile, it will most likely never degrade. (source:
  3. The so called recyclable lids and cups do not really get recycled. Big organizations are calling on their greenwashing about recycling. invited the CEO of Starbucks to actually go and see where their waste is ending up in this article.
Starbucks called out for greenwashing. Image:

So, it is easy to see that the "compostable" straw + the bigger sippy cup lid = creates more waste.

Starbucks is not the only one that has done these types of greenwashing to "save the world" and duping customers into thinking they are making healthier choices.

What can we do then?

  1. Always carry a reusable cup/tumbler. It is essentially zero waste. Most Starbucks will give a discount on those. Also do not waste your money expensive Starbucks tumbles. Just use what you have. It is the most sustainable option.
  2. If you forget to carry one, ask Starbucks to give your drinks in their reusable muds (they do have those). Sit and enjoy your coffee/tea hopefully with a non-animal based milk.
Reusable discount at Starbucks (Source: Starbucks)

Nitika Bhardwaj

Nitika Bhardwaj

I aspire to contribute in my own little way in the development of humanity through the lens of sustainability and conscious living.