17 people dead after duck boat sinks at Table Rock Lake

Starbucks says it will stop offering plastic straws by 2020

A couple has iced coffee drinks at a Starbucks Coffee shop in lower Manhattan August 21, 2009 in New York City. Starbucks, America's dominant coffeehouse chain, is changing some of its prices, raising them for elaborate specialty drinks and cutting prices for some others. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

SEATTLE — Starbucks, citing the environment threat to oceans, will ban plastic straws from all of its stores globally in less than two years.

The company becomes the largest food and beverage company operating globally to do so.

Starbucks said Monday that it is making available a strawless lid at 8,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada for certain drinks.

The coffee company estimates the switch will eliminate more than 1 billion plastic straws a year.

Starbucks said cold beverages in which a straw is typically included make up 50 percent of the drinks it sells, up from just 37 percent five years ago.

McDonald’s also recently said it would switch to paper straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland by next year, and test alternatives to plastic straws in some U.S. locations.

Environmental activists have been pressuring businesses to ditch plastic straws because they can end up in the ocean and hurt marine life. The push gained traction after a viral video in 2015 showed rescuers removing a straw from a sea turtle’s nose in graphic detail.

Local governments have also been looking at the issue. Last week, Seattle’s ban on single-use plastic straws and utensils in food service outlets took effect, and Starbucks says it already offers alternative straws there. Similar proposals are being considered elsewhere, including New York and San Francisco.

While straws have become a high-profile issue, they make up only about 4 percent of the plastic trash by number of pieces, and far less by weight. Straws add up to only about 2,000 tons of the nearly 9 million tons of plastic waste that hits waters a year.

Still, those who support limiting plastic straws say they are generally unnecessary and a ban is good symbol.