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Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Starbucks announced on Monday a phase-out of plastic straws in their 28,000 stores across the world by 2020, planning to replace them with a "strawless lid" and straws made of paper and recyclable plastic.

Why it matters: Starbucks estimates that this change will remove a billion single-use straws from its stores each year. Straws represent an especially unnecessary plastic to many, used once for minutes before being discarded, and have been linked to deaths of marine and bird life due to improper disposal.

The big picture: According to organization For a Strawless Ocean, Americans use 500 million plastic straws each day — and the majority end up in the ocean. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that the mass of plastic in the ocean will surpass that of marine life by 2050.

The bans are in vogue, and some activists hope the straw bans may serve as a "gateway plastic" to reducing other single-use plastics.

  • The UK announced a full phase-out of straws and cotton swabs in April.
  • Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws on July 1.

Yes, but: Plastic straws aren't the biggest culprit in plastics pollution, they're just easy to remove. While banning them would reduce pollution overall, it would make a small dent and the world's largest buyer, McDonald's, hasn't announced any planned phase-out.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

5 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.

6 hours ago - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspended the season tickets of notable alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.