Are strawless lids actually better?
I'm in a bit of a dilemma. I run a small coffee shop, so I am painfully aware of all of the waste created by plastic cups, lids, etc. So I'm constantly working on minimizing that waste.
A big trend in coffee shops right now that seems like a good idea are strawless lids. Made sense to me, so I thought we would try it. I'm all for reducing straws, even if their role in the ocean plastic crisis is a bit overplayed. Waste is waste.
We got our strawless lids in yesterday and I had a weird revelation - the strawless lids weight more than a regular lid + a straw, meaning they actually contain more plastic than the lid + straw combo.
Like many environmental problems, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around which choice is actually better for the planet. On one hand, the strawless lids seem to actually consume more plastic, but it is still one item instead of two. The lid is recyclable and the straws aren't, but we're in the deep south so I'm not so sure how effective our recycling is right now (and I would bet about 98% of our customers aren't bothering to recycle them anyway). Less straws will be less room taken up on delivery trucks and in our storage room. The straws we currently carry are made in Vietnam, so transport over that distance has an obvious cost. The list goes on and on...
We are nowhere near a coastline, FWIW, so I'm not too concerned about straws ending up in the ocean.
Just curious if anyone has any input or perspective on this issue. I don't want to inadvertently increase the cost on the planet when I'm trying to help it.
Scorch -- Thanks for this question. It's an important one as business considers its options. There are a couple of questions to clarify an answer:
1.) Are the strawless lids compostable? If so, even with the extra weight, it represents a far lower threat to the environment than traditional plastics lids or straws because the lids will break down. They require industrial composting, which makes it important to get them to the right place instead of allowing them to be thrown away and escape into nature.
2.) The distance the product travels can have an even greater impact on the environment than the plastic that escapes recycling. CO2 produces, among other things, a more acidic ocean environment. If you can find paper or compostable lids and straws made domestically, it will be substantially better for the planet, and then your choice can be focused on the recyclability/compostability of the product.
We need a domestic circular economy that minimizes shipping distances and uses the recovered materials from local sources efficiently. As a coffee shop owner, you can count on competitors to Starbucks' compostable cups and lids emerging to provide you more environmentally friendly options. There are several companies working to start this industry:
Thanks for the response! Definitely helps bring some perspective.
To answer your question - unfortunately no, the ones we are using (for the moment anyway) are plain-ol' PET. We were at least able to switch our cups from #5 (which is not recycled here) to #1 (which is). I'm not totally against looking for compostable lids, but I have been unable to find anyway to access industrial composting near us - or even in the whole state of GA for that matter. So once again I'm not sure whether compostable lids that go in the trash are better vs. #1 lids, of which maybe 25-30% get recycled.
I do think the distance thing is perhaps the biggest factor here, for us anyway. Even if straws are relatively light, Vietnam is a long way away, and I can only imagine a straw factory there is probably not quite as concerned about what it's spewing in to the air. I at least know the cups and lids from our current manufacturer are made in the US. Not to say I couldn't find straws that are produced domestically as well, but at least in terms of evaluating our current situation.
As much as I hate on Starbucks, I do appreciate that they are helping drive more innovative solutions for things like this. Even getting customers to understand the strawless lids has proved difficult. It's both sad and hilarious how many people can't process drinking a cold drink without a straw. But several have said something like "Oh, they have sip lids like Starbucks now!" So there's definitely two sides to it.