Dear Starbucks, I am a real mer-maid, not just a graphic on a plastic cup. As an ocean protection activist, environmental attorney and surf lover, I spend a lot of time at the beach and in the ocean. I want you to know that your “Green” Straws, plastic stirrers and mermaid cups are some of the most commonly found at the beach, contributing greatly to the plastic pollution crisis.

Last week I met up with a dear friend and Rutgers University Marine Biologist who was visiting my hometown. We met at Starbucks. Here is the vision that greeted us upon entering my local Starbucks.


Plastic Straws and Stirrers are the Number 7 most common item found on beaches worldwide on International Coastal Cleanup day, the single largest volunteer effort on the planet and source of valuable data for what ails our seas. Starbucks is undeniably one of the greatest sources of those straws and stirrers, along with plastic cups, which come in at Number 5 most polluting, and plastic lids, at Number 3 most polluting. Not something to brag about, but to change.

Why not be truly Green and replace those plastic, nonrecyclable, everlasting straws with paper ones and only offer upon request? Most adults are fully capable of drinking without a straw. Why not ask customers if they would prefer to enjoy their coffee from a real cup if they are planning to stay? Starbucks customers who stay and enjoy their drinks in the cafe are served in to-go cups with plastic lids unless they specifically request a ceramic cup, as I do. Single use plastics never biodegrade and are destroying our ocean ecosystem and infiltrating our food chain. This mermaid does not like plastic in my seafood.

Yesterday, I went to Topanga State Beach to watch my son surf. There on the beach, I found the Green Straw you promote on the door of my local Starbucks in the first image of this blog. Here is the Green Straw, now tangled up in seaweed.


Have you checked out the video of a straw being pulled out of an endangered sea turtle’s nose? Your straws, plastic cups and green plastic stirrers are everywhere on the beach and washing into the oceans, endangering countless creatures, including 90% of all seabirds. Mermaid Logo? How ironic.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

6 Responses

  1. kim beller says:

    wow. freaking wow. i’m a mermaid too, and this is the best letter ever.
    i am constantly cleaning the beaches and advocating for less plastic. i hope starbucks will hear this message and make a change. and YES, i saw the video of the plastic straw being removed from the turtles nose 🙁 NOT A GOOD THING TO SEE. i volunteer at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital in surf city NC and see the many ways litter affects sea turtles and, of course, other marine wildlife. thanks for sharing this letter.
    kim beller
    wilmington, nc.
    (wrightsville and topsail beaches are my spots to play and clean up). 🙂

  2. boothv says:

    Nice. I’m dropping a note to Starbucks with the link
    Here’s what I love. They didn’t make a yellow, black or white straw. Nope. They went with green and are selling it as being ‘reusable.” Uh…isn’t that EVERY straw?
    Maybe their research found that 94% of all Starbucks customers bring their own straws. I mean, if you spent all that time breaking it in why throw it away, right?

  3. It’s really easy to pick on a large retailer like Starbucks but the fact of the matter is that consumers prefer disposable plastic straws, cups and stirrers because they are more sanitary and retailers will always do with the consumers want. In addition, disposable items don’t require the water and energy (to heat the water) it takes to wash non-disposable items do.

    If you’re going to call out Starbucks for the plastic pollution littering our oceans and shorelines, how that also calling out Starbucks customers for carelessly throwing out such items instead of choosing to properly recycle them when and where it’s possible?

    • Well, this is an open letter to Starbucks, not their customers, but otherwise you are certainly right – everyone should be held accountable for making cleaner, sustainable choices.

    • Eva says:

      I agree wholeheartedly that consumers needto be making smarter choices, however when you have convenience items being essentially the only things being offered, that’s what you are going to take. Most humans are concerned about rushing to their jobs, or wrangling their children, or dealing with a health issue, etc. Convenience trumps common sense 99% of the time. Starbucks, and other major contributors to the single use plastic problem, need to be held accountable for allowing their greed to override their large-scale responsibility to their customers, and to the earth. Papers straws are a fantastic option. A significant discount for bringing your own cup. Corn-based biodegradable plastics. Certainly, all are not without their faults, but they are a are in the right direction.

  4. Great discussion here in comments about responsibility for pollution and where it lies. In the good old days, before the invention of petrochemical products, packaging was either biodegradable, reusable or truly recyclable. Products were made last. With the advent of cheap plastics, we began to manufacture packaging and cheap single use products meant to be thrown away after one use. We considered throw away living to be modern. There is a great scene in Mad Men of Don Draper’s family having a picnic roadside, and after they finish, Don just picks up the red checkered table cloth and shakes all their trash onto the grass as they leave. No more hassle of washing, just use and move on. The problem first became visual blight and Keep America Beautiful was launched and we had the crying Native American to tell us it was not cool to litter. But sadly, the problem is not just litter. As we continue to go to extremes to get at fossil fuels to make more energy and petrochemical products like plastic, we are ruining our water with fracking and spills, but the biggest oil spill every day is the amount of plastics into our waterways. The difference from Don Draper Days is the amount (plastic production increases every year, as does waste) and the accumulation of a material that the earth can not digest. Plastic not only does not biodegrade, it becomes more toxic as it adsorbs (that’s a word) the oliophillic toxins in the surrounding waters like DDT, PCBs and flame retardants. So the plastic in the oceans, which does get shredded in the currents so that 95 % of the plastic is smaller than a grain of rice, becomes like poison pellets that are consumed by creatures throughout the food chain, and we are at the top of that food chain! We are literally eating our own toxic waste. All the anti-littering campaigns over the decades since the invention of plastics have done nothing to stop the growth of plastic pollution. We need a better solution: Stopping it at the source, just like we stop air pollution at the factory. Plastic has proven to be a bad choice for single use packaging and products because we can’t keep up with the everlasting waste. We can’t recycle our way out of it. Most single use plastics are from fast food and get thrown away, contaminated with food, on the go. We need better materials that are sustainable (not made from fossil fuels) and truly biodegradable (in water as well as in an industrial facility!) or recycled by the manufacturer in a continuous loop. Then there is always bring your own. That’s what I do in the meantime. Thanks for all the thought put into your comments!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



Get the top stories from Planet Experts — right to your inbox every week.

Send this to a friend