Ben & Jerry's, South Burlington, Vermont, has become the latest company to announce its move away from single-use plastic. As a first step, the company says in a press release that it will no longer offer plastic straws and spoons in any of its more than 600 Scoop Shops worldwide in early 2019. The company also announced a plan to address plastic cups and lids used to serve ice cream by the end of 2020.
Jenna Evans, Ben & Jerry's global sustainability manager, is leading the transition. She noted that Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops currently hand out 2.5 million plastic straws and 30 million plastic spoons a year. If all the plastic spoons used by Ben & Jerry's in the U.S. were placed end to end, they'd stretch from Burlington, Vermont, to Jacksonville, Florida, the press release says. "We're not going to recycle our way out of this problem," Evans says. "We, and the rest of the world, need to get out of single-use plastic."
"Single-use plastics are a pollution threat unlike anything we've seen before," says Paul Burns, the executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. "Across the globe, discarded plastics are choking our environment and threatening wildlife. The only solution is to stop using them. That's why Ben & Jerry's plan to move away from single-use plastics is exactly the kind of leadership we need. We urge other businesses to follow Ben & Jerry's example and kick the plastics habit."
Ben & Jerry's says it has already embarked on its plan to get out of single-use plastic in its Scoop Shops:
- August 2018—Scoop Shops made plastic straws available by request only. Many Scoop Shops had already transitioned to plastic alternatives by this time.
- By April 9, 2019—Scoop Shops will complete the transition to wooden spoons. Paper straws will be available by request only.
- By the end of 2020—Ben & Jerry's will find an alternative to clear plastic cups, plastic-lined cups and plastic lids.
The company says it has a history of striving for more sustainable packaging solutions. Pints and "tubs" (as Ben & Jerry's containers are known in the U.K. and Europe) have been made with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified paperboard since 2009. But because they are coated with polyethylene to create a moisture barrier, they are difficult to recycle. Evans says Ben & Jerry's is looking at options. "Over the past year, we have begun an intensive effort to find a biodegradable and compostable coating that meets our product quality requirements," she says.
"In the short term, eliminating plastic straws and spoons is not going to save the world," Evans says. "But it's a good start toward changing expectations. We're committed to exploring additional options to further reduce the use of disposable items. This transition is the first step for us on a more comprehensive journey to eliminate single-use, petroleum-based plastic in our supply chain, and we look forward to reporting on our progress.”