Minimizing Packaging Components
Starbucks, the largest coffee chain in the world, has a robust three-decade history as a leader in eco-conscious initiatives. In 2018, they tackled their largest sustainability project to date, by pledging to eliminate plastic straws from all their stores by 2020. Incorporating circular design principles to reduce or eliminate unnecessary packaging components was the primary goal.
Starbucks enlisted Plastic Ingenuity to assist with this opportunity. In 2016, Plastic Ingenuity worked with Starbucks to help design the Nitro Cold Brew lid. This innovation effectively targeted a niche segment of consumers who preferred cold brew without ice. The design offered an inspiring model for a straw-less solution but required modifications to accommodate a wide variety of cold drinks.
All About Teamwork
The first round of brainstorming included four Plastic Ingenuity Design Engineers and 11 design options to effectively address all the specifications. After these initial iterations, it was decided the next phase of designs would focus on a hybrid solution featuring aspects of the current hot coffee lid, but with the Nitro Cold Brew lid profile.
PI’s engineering team leveraged this information to inspire a second round of examples. PI submitted 20 additional designs in four days, which ultimately led to the final design. Once the design was identified and approved, five sets of samples were handcrafted by our Prototype Technicians and sent to Starbucks to test form, fit, and function.
Additionally, PI’s quality control team implemented an extensive testing process including a custom assessment called the “tilt test”. This ensured all requirements were met and the highest quality product was supplied. This collaborative, efficient, and economic process resulted in an effective and sustainable design.
Plastic Ingenuity developed a thermoformed polypropylene lid to eliminate the need for plastic straws. The rapid turnaround facilitated Starbucks’ ability to successfully transition to straw-less by its 2020 goal. The lid was successfully designed to reduce spilling, splashing, and ice migration through the drink opening with the same effectiveness as a straw. A win-win for Starbucks and the pursuit of a circular economy.
Results of Sustainability Assessment
designs in 4 days
sets of samples in 5 days
Starbucks straws eliminated per year from over 28,000 stores