OPINIONS Commentary: Saving the ocean rescues Starbucks from drowning


Commentary: Saving the ocean rescues Starbucks from drowning

By Lance Crayon | People's Daily app

07:30, July 16, 2018

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It looked as though 2018 was going to be rough a year for Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain. A slew of racial incidents that included in-store arrests and slurs written on coffee cups drew national headlines and minor protests. 

The coffee behemoth recently announced it would phase out their ubiquitous green straws by 2020 in an effors to help save the planet’s oceans and waterways. And overnight, Starbucks was everybody’s favorite coffee shop once again.

On July 1, Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks, became the first US city to ban plastic utensils and straws.

Fast food giant McDonald’s rolled out with an anti-straw initiative in the UK and Ireland in the spring, but not in the US because they had yet to find an alternative.  While American Airlines and other commercial carriers issued statements that they too would do away with plastic straws and stirrers.

Petitions have emerged at chains like Dunkin’ Donuts demanding the company follow suit, which if not handled carefully, could become a bully tactic that could turn innocent employees into victims of over-zealous ocean lover rage. 

In early 2016, the World Economic Forum announced there would be more plastic than fish by weight in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The same report said that 8.5 billion single-use straws are thrown away annually. The campaign has been brewing for few years but it needed the right endorsement.

Coastal Cleanup Day is one of the most significant volunteer efforts in the world centered on removing trash from the ocean. For California’s clean-up day, between 1989 to 2014, the plastic straw was the sixth-most commonly found trash item on the West Coast shoreline.

Earlier this year, California’s Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill that would make it illegal for a restaurant employee to give a customer a non-reusable straw. As if working at a restaurant could not get any harder, those who violate the law could face fines ranging anywhere between $25 to $1,000, and possible jail time upwards of six months in a county facility.  

The bill, AB-1884, passed the Assembly in Sacramento earlier this year, and now needs Senate approval. Currently, nine cities in the Golden States have plastic straw bans.  

State legislation is also pending in Hawaii and New York. 

Meanwhile, in the UK, the anti-straw movement received royal backing when Queen Elizabeth II announced plastic straws would no longer be allowed at all royal estates. 

The announcement from Her Majesty inspired UK Prime Minister Theresa May to rally Parliament lawmakers to draft legislation that would also help combat Britain’s disposable culture.

So far, the biggest complaints have come from the disabled community who rely on straws to eat. As for those employed at manufacturing companies that produce plastic straws, they will soon need to find work elsewhere. 

If recycling centers offered .50 cents for every straw returned, a new revenue stream would flourish, while at the same time drastically reduce the amount of plastic straws destroying the environment. 

The Starbucks green straw shall be missed. It was a consumer announcement that said, “I just spent $7.”  

If the company wanted to repair its damaged reputation in the US, then it would be better off directing their efforts at trying to help society rather than cleaning the bottom of the ocean.

This “good cause” trend will fizzle out just like the others. When was the last time someone made a video of them dumping ice water over their head in the name of ALS?  

As the anti-plastic straw announcement went viral on Twitter, a Starbucks barista in the US tweeted she was almost reprimanded after a customer asked how they would be able to enjoy a beverage without a straw after she responded, “With your mouth.” Further confusion is expected come 2020.

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