Goodbye, Starbucks Green Plastic Straw? A History of the Iconic Product

Don't worry, it has an eco-friendly cousin.

by Josie Rhodes Cook

Starbucks announced Monday that it will phase out plastic straws from its stores worldwide by 2020. The decision will impact over 28,000 locations and may eliminate more than 1 billion straws per year.

The company has instead come up with an alternative to straws: a new strawless lid that looks sort of like an adult sippy-cup. The plastic strawless lid will replace most single-use plastic straws and is the result of Starbucks’ $10 million investment to create recyclable and compostable cups globally, NPR reported Monday.

That may not mean they’ll disappear overnight. Starbucks Media Relations tells Inverse any of the straws available to customers at Starbucks “will remain the iconic green color, no matter what they’re made of!” There will just be a lot less of the plastic ones thanks to this new initiative. This is not the first time Starbucks has made a business shift that drew a lot of attention, but it might be among the company’s most environmentally friendly moves in recent memory.



But what of Starbucks’ famous green plastic straws? Some call them iconic, and they certainly seem intrinsically-connected to the Seattle-based coffee brand. With this new change in design, will the current Starbucks green straws go the way of the dinosaur? Not necessarily.

Starbucks Straws: A Brief History

While Inverse was unable to reach the designer of the brand’s green straws by press time, based on research into Starbucks’ news archive, the green straws have not always been a part of the Starbucks image.

Starbucks was founded in 1971, in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. But the first time Starbucks introduced its caramel frappuccino blended beverage, “served with a green straw and domed lid for the first time,” wasn’t until 1999. That means almost 30 years went by between the original Starbucks store launch and the first noted introduction of the infamous green straws.

No straws to be seen.


Starbucks Straws and Eco-Friendly Alternatives

In addition to the new lids, which can be recycled, Starbucks is also reportedly going to roll out straws made from alternative materials besides plastic. They will be available on request. As one notable example, frappuccinos will still be served with straws “made from paper or PLA compostable plastic manufactured from fermented plant starch or other sustainable material,” a Starbucks Newsroom post reported Monday.

Actor Adrian Grenier has been lobbying Starbucks to get rid of single-use plastic drinking straws and told Mic in March that new, alternative straws can simply be dyed green as well. Starbucks Media Relations confirmed to Inverse that that should be the case with Starbucks straws in the future. So even if the straws Starbucks customers know and love won’t be exactly the same, a similar, still green eco-friendly cousin should still be available in limited supply.

As iconic as the straws may be, Starbucks seemed to manage without them for a long time. Starbucks customers may just have to do the same for most of their Starbucks treats in the future in the spirit of truly “going green.”

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