MSU graduate helps Starbucks ditch straws

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -- A Michigan State University graduate has developed a lid that is helping Starbucks go strawless.

Starbucks recently revealed all of its stores will be ditching straws within the next few years, and Emily Alexander was a big part of that.

"This new cold-cup lid, being global in its implementation... as a parent, you just have to sit back and say this is just so cool." Emily's father, Bruce Alexander said.

Emily's parents say MSU gave her the tools and skills to create the lid. She started in mechanical engineering, and had never thought about packaging until someone suggested it to her. Her mother, Mary Jo Hardy says it was a perfect fit.

"She was always a kid who was building things and making things and figuring out how to do something, and so packaging kind of put together all of her interests," Hardy said.

The sustainable lid, which Starbucks will use now instead of straws, took Alexander and her team 10 weeks to make. Alexander works in Seattle as an engineer for Global Research and Development at Starbucks. Company rules don't allow her to talk about her job, but her parents say she has been low-key since the announcement.

"She's pretty level-headed. She gives a lot of credit to her team members and the group within her area. She's really enjoying it and feeling good about making a positive impact," Hardy said.

Professors say that they are used to students doing big things after they graduate, but that doesn't make them any less proud.

"It makes us very proud that we were able to be a small part of this by giving her the ability to gain skills that she then put to use in a very practical way that can make big changes," Susan Selke, PhD said. Selke is a professor at MSU and the director of the packaging program.

With more than 500 million straws used each day, this changes is huge; something her parents always thought she could achieve.

"We always thought she was cool. It's nice that the world does too," Bruce Alexander said.

Straws are hard for recycling machines to filter out because of their size and weight. The new lids not only get rid of straws but are also recyclable. The company will also provide straws made of alternative materials.

Starbucks will eliminate straws in all of its 28,000 stores worldwide by the year 2020.