Here in Los Angeles, certain Starbucks locations are hunting grounds for paparazzi in search of the perfect setting of a skilfully-rolled celebrity enjoying an iced Matcha in yoga clothing. (Celebrities – they're just like us!) At the crossroads of that celebrity and their drink of choice? A plastic straw.
Long standard range in restaurants and takeout joints, plastic straws have recently become antennae for the wrath of environmentalists, like plastic bags in front of them. And rightly so. Ocean Conservancy's 2017 International Coastal Cleansing Report (pdf), which includes data from clean-up work in 112 countries, found that plastic straws consistently rank among the top 1
"The beast found it difficult to breathe, as the straw took a whole nostril," National Geographic reported. "The sea turtle expert believes that [the turtle] could have swallowed that straw, gagged it, and then tried to throw it up again."
Like the plastic bag, the straw quickly becomes a symbol of the poison and stubborn scourge of disposable plastic and an everyday product that can be eliminated to reduce its use. Organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, and the Ocean Conservancy are committed to helping skilful citizens – and the restaurants that serve them – skip plastic straws altogether.
Some companies and communities take notice. On Monday (May 21), Alaska Airlines announced that it would replace plastic straws and citrus husks with "sustainable, marine-friendly alternatives" on all flights and in lounges. (Fun fact: This change came after the urging of a 16-year-old girl scout named Shelby O & Neil.) A day later, New York City Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr. introduced a bill to plastic straws in the city to ban restaurants.
"It's important for New Yorkers to understand that plastic straw is not a necessity, it's more of a luxury, and our luxury causes great harm to other environments," said Espinal of The New York Times (Paywall). "Plastic is not the only straw available, there are paper straws, aluminum straws and bamboo straws that are much safer for our environment, just to name a few." (There's really a plethora of straw options.) This reusable stainless steel set even comes with cleaning brushes!)  At Starbucks, change is slow, from city to city. In July, the company's hometown, Seattle, will issue a ban on plastic straws. And as of June 1st, the Starbucks location in Malibu Country Mart (one of Mallorca's most picturesque shopping centers) will have to comply with a city-wide ban on restaurants carrying plastic straws or utensils. An employee of Malibu Starbucks told Quartz he expects alternative straws to arrive in the store next week.
"I have no idea what the style [of the straws] is," he said. "Or if it's something strictly for Starbucks."
Fortunately, the thing has its own star. In March actor and environmentalist Adrian Grenier spoke to Starbucks shareholders about the company's environmental policy. He also launched a Twitter campaign for the company: #stopsucking .