Last year, CB reported that Starbucks was expected to eliminate more than one billion straws a year through its new strawless lid. This change was slated to occur in its 28,000-plus stores worldwide by 2020. The announcement was made with much fanfare and touted as a game changer by the company and the media alike.
Now, a report by The Intercept has found that this plastic lid is unlikely to be recycled. This is because the lids are made from polypropylene, which is barely recycled in the US. In fact, only 5.1 per cent of this material was recycled in the US in 2015, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. This is exacerbated by the fact that China, which had been processing a good majority of the plastic waste generated by the US and most of the rich countries, has stopped accepting such waste since January 2018.
The process of converting used polypropylene into reusable plastic was already too costly and in the past six months the price of new polypropylene has dropped further, making the recycling of such plastic even less profitable and feasible. In fact, recycling polypropylene is more expensive than creating new polypropylene, as stated in the same report.
Starbucks is yet to respond to this new revelation. Interestingly, although the company operates in 75 countries, it has cup-recycling goals only for the US and Canada, which means India is outside of its lofty ambitions. It is anyone’s guess whether the company intends to address this gap. CB’s own experience shows that the company doesn’t respond to queries.