In the last year, plastic straws came under fire with the public for being damaging to the environment. They are not easily recyclable and are harmful to wildlife when left in landfills.
This led to Starbucks making an announcement that it would pull plastic straws from all 28,000 global locations by 2020. It was followed closely by similar promises from Disney, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola Australia.
Ben & Jerry’s, known primarily for ice cream packaged in cardboard pints sold in grocery stores, is now working to eliminate all single-use plastic from its brick-and-mortar Scoop Shops.
From the 600 global locations, Ben & Jerry’s estimates that it gives out 2.5 million plastic straws, and 30 million plastic spoons per year. Straws and spoons will be phased out in early 2019, and the company has plans to replace plastic cups and lids used to serve ice cream by the end of 2020.
Jenna Evans, Ben & Jerry's Global Sustainability Manager, "We're not going to recycle our way out of this problem. We, and the rest of the world, need to get out of single-use plastic."
Ben & Jerry’s started the initiative in August 2018 when it made plastic straws available by request only. The transition to wooden spoons and paper straws is expected to complete by April 9, 2019.
Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said, "Single-use plastics are a pollution threat unlike anything we've seen before. Across the globe, discarded plastics are choking our environment and threatening wildlife. The only solution is to stop using them.”
"Over the past year, we have begun an intensive effort to find a biodegradable and compostable coating that meets our product quality requirements," Evans said.
"In the short term, eliminating plastic straws and spoons is not going to save the world. But it's a good start toward changing expectations. We're committed to exploring additional options to further reduce the use of disposable items.”
Response from Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar:
“Ben & Jerry’s is taking an important step by eliminating throwaway plastics throughout its more than 600 shops globally. While other companies have delayed efforts to phase out single-use plastics for years, Ben & Jerry’s has set clear, short-term targets to end its reliance on these plastic items.”
“Ben & Jerry’s and forward-thinking companies around the world are starting to prioritize the reduction of plastics, rather than relying on additional recycling measures that keep the flow of plastics coming. It’s time for Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, to show the same urgency with time-bound commitments to reduce its reliance on single-use plastics. With concern about plastic pollution growing every day, getting rid of plastics is quickly becoming a no-brainer for countless economic, environmental, and health reasons.”